Telluride Bluegrass Fest #50: Leftover Salmon Returns (Thank Heaven & Craig Ferguson)!

Telluride Bluegrass Fest #50: Leftover Salmon Returns (Thank Heaven & Craig Ferguson)!

The 50th Annual Telluride Bluegrass Festival takes place June 15 – June 18. The event is sold out. There is no waitlist. If you are looking for tickets, use the Festivarian Forum to connect with other festival-goers. But tickets are still available for Nightgrass. (Click here.)

Learn more about other Planet Bluegrass festivals at

Please scroll down to check out our podcast with Vince Herman of Leftover Salmon. The band returns to the Main Stage of the Telluride Bluegrass Festival – after a year off – on Friday, June 16.

Go here for more on Telluride Bluegrass. (Podcasts with Bluegrass legends back to 2009.)

Leftover Salmon today, courtesy Telluride Bluegrass. Credit:Tobin Voggesser,

Picking up where bands like Little Feat, The Band and The Grateful Dead left off and distilling their music into a potent brew of bluegrass, rock ‘n’ roll, folk, Cajun, soul, zydeco, jazz and blues, Leftover Salmon (LoS) developed a reputation for being festival rabble-rousers. But their legacy cannot be measured in ticket sales and albums alone. For a band as unique as this one that measure is found in their impact on the music world as whole.

Out of the gate, LoS eschewed “normal” musical standards, giving the outfits that followed in their lead license to do whatever came naturally – and have a ball on stage while doing that just like LoS.

In short, LoS is considered to be the architect of what came to be known as “jamgrass or “newgrass,” a tradition in which musicians clearly schooled in the traditional rules of bluegrass break free of those rules through non-traditional instrumentation and an innate ability to push songs in new, psychedelic directions. That approach opened up new turf for bands such as The String Cheese Incident, Yonder Mountain String Band, Railroad Earth, Greensky Bluegrass, The Infamous Stringdusters and countless others.

Summing up, over decades now, LoS has continued to push the progressive bluegrass sound – which influenced them in early days – to a whole other level.

What goes around…

As far as musical partnerships go, LoS co-founders, guitarist/singer Vince Herman and mandolinist/singer Drew Emmitt, are among the jam scene’s heroes. In truth, the two are living legends.

The story goes that in 1985 Herman moved to Boulder, CO., from Morgantown, West Virginia, where he attended West Virginia University. On his first night in town, he met Emmitt at a show for Emmitt’s group at the time, the Left Hand String Band.

The two had serious chemistry and struck up an immediate friendship. Then, for a short time after moving to Boulder, Herman joined The Left Hand String Band, marking the first time the two would play together.

Herman soon left The Left Hand String Band to pursue his unique musical vision and formed the Salmon Heads, a Cajun jug band that was an attempt to wrangle all of Herman’s disparate musical influences – Cajun, calypso, ska, and bluegrass – into a coherent musical statement. His vision was fully realized New Year’s Eve 1989 when the Salmon Heads and The Left Hand String Band united forces for a show, which was, natch, a rousing success.

The energy created on stage that evening was something special and a new band named Leftover Salmon was born.

LoS was a band that conformed to Herman’s ideal – which was (and is) not to conform. A band which would allow the artist to showcase his wildly theatrical stage antics and skills, on display for decades now at every LoS show.

What has changed is the  band’s lineup. The current roster features Emmitt, who celebrates 25 years at Telluride Bluegrass this year; Herman; bassist Greg Garrison; banjoist Andy Thorn; drummer Alwyn Robinson; and Jay Starling on dobro and keyboards.

Brand New Good Old Days is LoS’s ninth release and their first put out on Nashville’s indie Compass Records, marking a return to the label that helped boost the outfit’s standing about a decade ago.

Recorded primarily in late 2019 while on tour in Asheville, North Carolina, LoS was inspired by the come-to-the-neighborhood vibe of Echo Mountain studios, a venue converted from an old church complete with intricate stained-glass window. The recording is a mix of original compositions and covers.

“Brand New Good Old Days is a tight album. The band shows off their impressive instrumental chops, but tracks never sprawl. They get into and out of songs quickly, making it easy to appreciate the earnest vocals. The album, even with some darker topics, feels like a beautiful, sunny day. Where many bands wear their sadness like a medal, Leftover Salmon share their happiness like orange slices after a Little League game,” said No Depression.

Critics sing in harmony about the joy of listening to Brand New Good Old Days, while agreeing, however, that a band like Leftover Salmon is best experienced live – as denizens of Telluride well know.

And now just released on Friday, also on Compass, is LoS’s 10th album: Grass Roots.

Year after year, LoS has returned to our box canyon, their sound echoing off the mountains that surround Telluride. Last year was an exception.

Welcome back.

For more, listen to a podcast featuring none other than Vince Herman.

LoS’s co-founder Vince Herman. Still crazy after all these years. Credit: Nick Negrete.


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