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Leftover Salmon visits Mountain Stage

February 28, 2019

Time flies when you’re rocking the festival world. Based in Colorado and now celebrating over three decades as a band, Leftover Salmon is looking back over their amazing career with a new book and a run of special concerts, including an appearance this Sunday on the Mountain Stage radio show in Charleston.

Leftover Salmon are known for their lively and diverse jams and for collaborating with many amazing musicians. They have experienced ups and downs, breakups and reformations, and the death of original member Mark Vann from cancer.

Their mix of bluegrass, rock, zydeco and other influences combined with a love for making music that is fun has kept the band a favorite of the jamband, bluegrass, newgrass and festival scenes. The group’s latest album is the well-received Something Higher.

This past February, the book “Leftover Salmon — Thirty Years of Festival” was released. Written by Tim Newby and published by Rowman and Littlefield, it is a full account of the 30-year history of the band.

The current lineup of Leftover Salmon features Vince Herman on guitar and vocals, Drew Emmitt on mandolin and vocals, Greg Garrison on bass, Andy Thorn on banjo, Alwyn Robinson on drums and Erik Deutsch. Thorn, Robinson and Deutsch are all a part of the resurrection of the group that began in 2010 and each has breathed new fire into the sound of the group.

While the members of Leftover Salmon all come from different parts of the U.S, there is a West Virginia connection to the group in the form of Vince Herman. Herman grew up near Pittsburgh in a family that included a grandfather that worked the coal mines. As a young man, Herman went to West Virginia University (WVU) and while he majored in acting and anthropology, bluegrass and old-time mountain music soon became his obsession.

When The Herald-Dispatch interviews Herman, he is relaxing before going onstage at the brand new $15 million Bluegrass Hall of Fame and Museum, which is located 300 miles from Huntington along the Ohio River in Owensboro, Kentucky.

As for the “Leftover Salmon — Thirty Years of Festival” book, Herman is glad that somebody finally collected all of the history of the band before it was lost to faded recollections.

“The way my memory is going, I am glad that book is there because now all I have to do is read it and then I can remember it,” said Herman, laughing. “History is written by those that remember it, man. The author, Tim Newby, got a lot of stuff from me. I kept a lot of calendars, paperwork, record contracts, minutes from official meetings and photos. I never wrote a journal or anything, but I got all of the memory prompts in boxes and crates. While moving around from the east to Colorado to Oregon and now back to Colorado, you definitely start to think, ‘How long do I have to hold on to this stuff?’ But Tim is a historian by trade and he thinks he can find somebody to eventually take it all.”

While at WVU, Herman explored the many historical collections found in the universities archives, specifically focusing on mountain musicians of the past.

“I spent a lot of time digging into the West Virginia University historical collection including listening to old tintype recordings,” said Herman. “Back then, it was kept at Colson Hall on campus on the top floor. I found all kinds of stuff there, including exploring all of the AppalShop items that was collected in Whitesburg, KY. There is a ton of old books and old field recordings in the WVU collection. On some of the old field recordings, you can hear unknown people playing the banjo on the back porch while hearing the hum of the generator that is running on the front porch.”

Even though Herman explored the WVU historical collection 30-plus years ago, he still remembers certain finds as if it were yesterday.

“Nimrod Workman (1895-1994) was my big discovery,” said Herman, of the Kentucky native who worked in a Mingo County, W.Va., coal mine for 40 years as an adult. Before succumbing to black lung, Workman was a part of the Battle of Blair Mountain miner’s revolt in 1921.

“He was an a capella mountain singer. There is one song in particular that I recall called ‘They Can’t Put It Back.’ (singing) ‘Way down in the valley, about a mile from me, where the crows no longer fly, there’s a great big earth-moving monster machine, that stands ten stories high, The ground it can move is a sight, It’ll take a hundred tons at a bite, It can take it out with one wack, but you can’t ever put it back.’”

Leftover Salmon is about to host their first-ever indoor winter music festival on March 22 – 24 at the 100-year old Broadmoor Hotel located near Colorado Springs, Colorado. The lineup includes Lukas Nelson and the Promise of the Real, Sam Bush, the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band and more.

Before that, however, the group makes a stop to perform on Mountain Stage this Sunday, March 3. The concert begins at 7 p.m. at the Culture Center Theatre. Tickets are $20 and the bill also features The Jeremiahs, Fred Eaglesmith with Tif Ginn, Mark Cline Bates and the WV Six and Asheville, NC’s Lovers Leap featuring Dobro great Billy Cardine.

“I went to my first Mountain Stage show around 1984,” said Herman. “I saw the bands Hot Rize and Red Knuckles and the Trailblazers there. But they came out at different parts of the show so I didn’t realize until later that they were the same musicians dressed up differently. My friends had to clue me in. I set myself up for the fall. But back then, I never would have dreamed that someday being on Mountain Stage would be my path. We are looking forward to it.”