First Appeared in The Music Box, August 2008, Volume 15, #8
Written by John Metzger
Fri August 15, 2008, 10:15 AM CDT
Since leaving Leftover Salmon to step out on his own, Drew Emmitt has followed a comfortable (though decidedly more reserved) path. For the most part, he has forsaken the eclectic, free-range output of his former band in favor of tighter arrangements. In the wake of his partnership with String Cheese Incident’s Bill Nershi in the unimaginatively titled Emmitt-Nershi Band, however, his penchant for adventure seems to have returned full-force. Although his latest solo set Long Road follows the template that he outlined on Freedom Ride, its underlying mechanics operate quite differently. Reaching far and wide across its musical landscape, the collection, more often than not, traces an arc that leads straight back to Emmitt’s work with Leftover Salmon.
Over the course of Long Road, Emmitt delivers a stylistic jumble of material that ranges from Beat of the World’s Jimmy Cliff-inspired, gospel-imbued reggae to a cover of the Marshall Tucker Band’s southern rock gem Take the Highway. He also takes a detour through the Cajun-tilted romp of Get ’er Rollin’ and offers a breezily wistful rendition of Van Morrison’s Gypsy in My Soul. Nevertheless, for all of Emmitt’s diversions and aspirations, the highlight of Long Road remains the unabashed bluegrass of Gold Hill Line, which actually benefits from its shape-shifting surroundings.
A fabulous instrumentalist in his own right, Emmitt has never had a problem attracting other gifted musicians to join whatever party he happens to be throwing. Mandolinist Ronnie McCoury, organ player Reese Wynans, and vocalists Tim O’Brien, Darrell Scott, and John Cowan lend their impeccable support to Long Road, while fiddler Stuart Duncan and Tyler Grant nearly steal the show with their fiery accompaniments. In the end, the outing achieves the kind of alchemical effortlessness that is all too rare among such guest-laden affairs.
Lyrically, much as its title suggests, Long Road is a loosely knit, 11-track meditation on escape and self-discovery. Deftly weaving together original compositions with a few well-chosen cover tunes, Emmitt is unapologetic in outlining the alluring call of the open highway. Although the title track might seem to indicate that he longs for home, its placement within the framework of the endeavor suggests otherwise. Instead, it provides a signal that he has returned to his roots, to which the rampaging rendition of River’s Risin’ — which not only first appeared on Leftover Salmon’s Euphoria but also draws Long Road to its conclusion — further attests. ˝
Of Further Interest...
Long Road is available from
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2008 The Music Box