Pop/Rock/World CD Reviews
Drew Emmitt: Long Road – Drew Emmitt – mandolin, guitar and vocals/ Chris Pandolfi, banjo/ Tyler Grant, guitars/ Stuart Duncan, fiddles/ Jeff Sipe, drums/ Eric Thorin, bass/ many others – Compass Records
Published on August 28, 2008
Drew Emmitt has been a long time member of the jam band Leftover Salmon; his new record, Long Road, is his third solo album. Like his previous efforts, this one heads down that “New Grass” path, and offers a truly entertaining mixture of mostly original compositions with the occasional cover thrown in for good measure. The disc includes an impressive supporting cast of players, with members from not only the bluegrass community, but also from fellow jam bands such as String Cheese Incident, The Infamous Stringdusters and The Aquarium Rescue Unit. A “theme” album of sorts, the songs all serve to document a musician’s life on the “Long Road,” conveyed through Drew Emmitt’s superb explorations of the contemporary bluegrass idiom.
This record is a sheer delight to listen to from start to finish. The “New Grass” sensibility of the proceedings leaves plenty of room for Drew Emmitt and cast to stretch the boundaries of traditional bluegrass, infusing it with elements of not only country and folk, but also pop, rock and even reggae and world beat! Most of the songs seem to start with really simple banjo/guitar/mandolin vamps that weave their way into really complex interaction between the musicians. On the albums’ cover tunes, the arrangements breathe new life into such staples as Supertramp’s “Take The Long Way Home” and Marshall Tucker’s southern classic “Take The Highway,” where the drums and banjo intro give the song an updated feel that retains all the majesty of the seventies original. Midway through the song, there’s an extended interplay between bass, drums and Tyler Grant on slide guitar; it gives the song and incredibly funky groove that’s just intoxicating!
Although Long Road is a mostly acoustic endeavor at its core, these guys really rock out on a couple of tunes – another excellent track is “I’m Alive,” which features Compass Records co-founder (and crack musician, as well) Alison Brown on banjo and the always excellent Stuart Duncan on fiddle. Alison’s banjo provides the foundation, and Stuart Duncan and Drew Emmitt trade ferocious solos on fiddle and mandolin. Interwoven between the heavier tracks are such textbook examples of good bluegrass sensibility as “Gold Hill Line” and “Cloud City,” which is not only a superb instrumental, but also a veritable clinic on good bluegrass played well!
The sound, as usual from Compass Records, is to die for, and offers an amazingly good representation of these fine musicians playing in a very real acoustic. This disc gets four stars – it just doesn’t get much better than this!
TrackList: Into The Distance; Take The Long Way Home; Gold Hill Line; Beat Of The World; Take The Highway; Cloud City; Get ‘Er Rollin; Long Road; I’m Alive; Gypsy In My Soul; River’s Risin’.
— Tom Gibbs