Leftover Salmon – Mauch Chunk Opera House – Jim Thorpe, PA 9/20/15 (SHOW REVIEW)

Leftover Salmon brought their high-energy slamgrass to Mauch Chunk Opera House on September 20th in Jim Thorpe, PA. It was just a little over a year ago when founder and front-man Vince Herman officially inaugurated Bill Payne as an active member of Leftover Salmon in at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville during the band’s 15th anniversary celebration of their 1999 album, The Nashville Sessions

The band took the stage opening the first set with “All Night Ride”, a fast paced number that featured superb solos by Drew Emmit, on the mandolin, and some excellent thumbing by Andy Thorn on his five string banjo. The sextet brought a pleasant Cajun feel to Mauch Chunk Opera House, courtesy of Herman’s lead vocals on “Carnival Time”, off their 1995 release, Ask the Fish. Payne, got the nod on vocals for “Way Down Under”, written by Robert Hunter, long time lyricist for The Grateful Dead. At this point in the evening, you could hear why the keyboardist was the perfect addition to the group with his bluesy chops and gutsy vocals.  Sticking with The Grateful Dead theme, Herman exclaimed:  “It has definitely been the summer of The Grateful Dead. Don’t you say? This is a Dead tune for you,” as the sextet dove straight into, “Mr. Charlie”.The highlight of the first set came with an exceptional version of Little Feat’s “Dixie Chicken”, to close the set. The song gave a chance for Emmitt to show off his fine electric guitar work, Payne to lend his chops to a song he’s played thousands of times and the long-haired, Herman to play the washboard spoons.

The beauty of Leftover Salmon for years, is that they have the ability to not only engage their fan base with original tunes but a number of top-notch covers as well. To launch, the first set into high gear the band, the band started off with “Bang A Gong (Get It On)”, by T. Rex. The band was dialed in, with an electric version of  another Little Feat tune – this time “Fatman In The Bathtub.” As bassist, Greg Garrison, slid his fingers up and down the bass, and Alwyn Robinson, kept a catchy beat on the drums, each band member traded off solos. The music veterans paid homage to a musical legend, Townes Van Zandt, with a bluegrass rendition of “White Freight Liner Blues”.

“Aquatic Hitchhiker”, off their 2012 release of the same name produced by Steve Berlin of Los Lobos, was the shining moment in the evening. As Andy Thorn, eased the band in with an introduction on the banjo, everyone chimed in with solos. Starting things off was Emmitt on the mandolin and then transitioned to band leader Herman, who showcased his flat picking guitar skills. The band members slowly filtered offstage, leaving Robinson and Payne, to duel it off on the drums and keyboards. The Jim Thorpe crowd rose to their feet as the band led them in “Big Railroad Blues”, along with the traditional tune, “Going Down The Road Feeling Bad”. Leftover Salmon close out the evening with a stellar rendition of John Hartford’s, “Up On The Hill Where They Do The Boogie” which as always brought the medicine and cured all who attended.

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