Drew Emmitt Band
August 10, 2007
Words and photos by Josh Mintz / photosbyjosh.com
Drew Emmitt may be best known for his days on stage with Leftover Salmon, but his own band is certainly nothing to scoff at. They made that perfectly clear when they blew the doors off the Gibson Lounge in Memphis on a scorching August evening.
Sure, there was bluegrass. But there was also jazz. Blues. Rock. Pretty much any genre that comes to mind poured out of the speakers at one time or another, often mixed together to create something new all together.
They opened the show with a great version of "Lonesome Road," Emmitt’s vocals as spot on as ever. His band is solid all the way around. Lead guitarist Tyler Grant has chops on both acoustic and electric, and the rhythm section of Steve Sandifer and Ben Bernstein kept a steady, bellowing beat all night long.
Emmitt has always shown his skill on mandolin, but his guitar playing was nothing short of stellar. Wielding a brand new Gibson ES-335 picked up at the factory earlier in the day (It’s not called the Gibson Lounge for nothing – they make many of the blues models in the adjacent Gibson plant), he often took over the lead duties, and he completely tore up "Why You Been Gone So Long."
Emmitt certainly didn’t neglect his mandolin, or his fiddle, for that matter, but his guitar playing really stood out. They settled back in to bluegrass with "Wild Bill Jones," and a great version of "Long Road Back To You," penned with John Cowan. Grant and Emmitt traded off solos during "Long Road," sparring back and forth.
During "Solitary Man," written by Grant, Emmitt showed just why one should never miss a chance to watch him: slide mandolin. There aren’t many people willing to step out of the well-defined mandolin box and stick a slide on their finger. It’s just un-bluegrass-like, and bluegrass is often a very "traditional" art form. But Emmitt slid that piece of glass up and down the neck of his mandolin much like blues men do on a guitar, and wailed away.
The set closed with a rapid-fire version of "All Night Ride," and they left for a short break before returning to wrap the evening up with a cover of Johnny Cash’s "Doin’ My Time," during which Emmitt picked up his Fender Telecaster for the first time of the night, making sure to apologize for playing it in a building run by Gibson.
All in all, it was a short set – clocking in at just over an hour and a half. However, it was a hot 1:45, and well worth braving the high 90’s heat to attend.