Across the Bridge – Drew Emmitt Band
Compass Records 744102
When Leftover Salmon went on hiatus, Drew Emmitt wanted to delve deeper into his bluegrass roots and spend more time with his family. Now he's probably been a good husband and father, but he sure has been busy as well. Besides touring the country and playing Hookahville last May with his band, he recorded his second solo release, Across The Bridge.
Although the title track of his solo debut, 2002's Freedom Ride, isn’t an Emmitt original, it could be viewed in hindsight as predicting his future endeavors away from his LOS bandmates. Across The Bridge finds his newfound independence away from group decisions has given him the steadiness to pursue a vision of the music he grew up with in Tennessee. The songs observe traditions while subtly adding country, blues and gospel elements.
Unlike Freedom Ride, which found him recording with a number of different musicians, here Emmitt plays with the members of his band. This gives many of the songs a stronger sense of cohesiveness as well as a more relaxed feel, even during the up-tempo bluegrass numbers. Like his first album, an all-star cast of guests does show up including Del and Ronnie McCoury, John Cowan, Sam Bush, Paul Barrere, Jim Lauderdale and Stuart Duncan). Duncan offers the most in this setting because his fiddle playing brings another dimension to many of the tunes, particularly on the instrumentals "Big Ice" and "Silvanite." (Bush adds clean runs on the fiddle during "Listen to the Spirit" and "Out in the Woods.") Barrere’s presence —co-writing and singing on "All That You Dream" — gives emphasis to the "blues" in "bluegrass," while Del McCoury provides a nice counterpoint on the duet, "This House."
It's not surprising to find that vocalist/mandolinist Emmitt weaves his way throughout the dozen tracks. Keeping conscious of the overall work rather than highlighting the name on the album sleeve, he plays the supporting role or moves to the front on a case-by-case basis. Just like Freedom Ride, he goes about matters in an egoless manner, riding the wave of material in order to create another delightful round of pickin’.