Drew Emmitt: Long Road

emmitt_long_road.jpgAs good as Leftover Salmon is, Drew Emmitt’s solo career is nothing to shake a stick at, and on his latest release, Long Road, he shows that when it comes to pickin’, he can assemble a group that’s every bit as good as any of the jam/bluegrass acts touring today.

On this 11-track masterpiece, Emmitt has recruited bandmates new and old as well as all-star caliber guests.  The result is a complete, diverse recording that is sure to satisfy both bluegrass purists and those who base their year on the next Bonnaroo.

From the opening "Into The Distance," it’s clear that this is a group of musicians on the same page.  With Jeff Sipe’s top-notch drumming, stellar acoustic guitar from Tyler Grant, banjo wizardry courtesy of Chris Pandolfi, and on-point Stuart Duncan-bowed fiddle, it’s a marvelous way to open a CD and immediately makes a statement that this is not your run-of-the-mill CD.

Emmitt confirms this with the next track, a cover of Supertramp’s "Take The Long Way Home."  It’s an interesting cover choice for a mandolin-led act, but really works.  And, he pulls out all the tricks on the song, plugging his mandolin in and playing with a slide.  Add in Reese Wynans’ Hammond B3, and bluegrass purists may want to head for the hills, but it’s this originality that makes the disc shine.

"Gold Hill Line," however, will redeem Long Road in the eyes of those traditional bluegrass folk, as it reverts to a more traditional format (with the exception of Sipe’s drums.), and Salmon fans will rejoice in the excellent, disc-closing "River’s Risin’."  The originals, though, are the meat of the disc.  The title track, penned with John Cowan, is great.  It’s Drew Emmitt at his best – pickin’ and singin’.

Plenty of all-star guests show up along the way; Ronnie McCoury lends his mandolin to "Cloud City," Cowan adds vocals to a cover of Marshall Tucker Band’s "Take The Highway"and Billy Nershi pops up on a few tracks to add dobro and pedal steel.

However, the real MVP here is Emmitt.  His vocals and playing are superb throughout the disc, his original tracks are catchy and well-played, and his choice of covers to sprinkle in are brilliant and fun.  This is definitely a solid disc, one that you’ll find yourself playing again and again. 

 Long Road is out now on Compass Records