Enjoy the Ride
The epitome of the Americana sound is present of Vince Herman’s Enjoy the Ride, the first solo album from the frontman of Leftover Salmon, a band that’s been with us for thirty years. Melding country, bluegrass, tinges of blues, and the kind of songs that echo John Prine and Johnny Cash, Herman has made a terrific record. Produced by David “Ferg” Ferguson (who had worked with Cash and Prine by the way), it was destined to be a winner with the cast of studio musicians assembled for the date and the writers collaborating with Herman on the songs. To add even a little more authenticity to the date, they recorded at the Cowboy Arms Hotel and Recording Spa in Nashville, the studio made famous by the late Cowboy Jack Clement. They tracked live over three days, yielding a dozen tunes.
The catalyst for the record was Herman’s association with Donnie and Chris Davisson of the Davisson Brothers Band. Ferguson was making a record with them. and they were writing with Herman, who was also playing on their record. These connections led to this album, which not only boasts first rate musicians (below) but a coterie of many co-writers. In addition, to the Davisson brothers, Donnie’s son Nick Davisson, Levi Lowrey, Aaron Raitiere, Phillip Lammonds, Ronnie Bowman, Adam Hood, Rob Snyder, Benny “Burle” Galloway, Channing Wilson, William Paul McDonald and Dave Pahanish all contributed, not to mention a pair of songs with Pat McLaughlin and Ferguson.
The studio band features guitarist Pat McLaughlin, multi-instrumentalist Darrell Scott (acoustic guitar, 12-string baritone guitar, banjo), bassist Dave Roe, drummer Pete Abbott, keyboardist Mike Rojas, guitarist and pedal steel player Russ Paul, banjoist Kyle Tuttle, Jason Carter and Bronwyn Keith-Hynes, and Herman’s son Silas Herman on mandolin. Tim O’Brien adds harmony vocals.
The album kicks off with country folk of “Lost Lover’s Eyes” with the kind of chorus that evokes the late John Prine with terrific mandolin from Herman’s son, Silas. The banjo driven “Flying” has the back porch flavor of a whiskey infused singalong. The title track is pure bluegrass while the infectious “Coraleen” leans toward Cajun country with the fiddlers carrying the tune. However, Herman’s voice and the pacing of the tune also rings of Prine. They stay in Cajun country, laying down some swampy funk for “Rattlesnake” and another of the state’s strains, vintage Dixieland with a three-piece horn section on “Any Other Day.”
“Rather Be Alone” is a wonderful straight-forward country ballad and Herman closes the record in similar fashion with “Drinking Alone.” “Better Way” is acoustic country folk music, played beautifully by the session musicians with uplifting harmonies from O’Brien, Ronnie Bowman best-known as a member of the Lonesome River Band, and Mike Armistead of the Tennessee Mafia Jug Band. “Lately” is another of the driving bluegrass tunes while “Old Pictures” is one of the stronger narratives, yet another example of Herman’s gift for engaging choruses. The driving “Outta Love Songs” is the Johnny Cash “Everywhere”- like tune, with musicians picking gleefully.
After the three days at the Cowboy Arms, additional overdubbing and mixing took place at the Butcher Shack, Ferguson’s post-production facility. This is when the harmony vocals were added. Rob McCoury from the Del McCoury Band and Tuttle also overdubbed banjo parts, and George Harper added a trombone part to “Any Other Way.” Additional recording for that song was done in engineer Jake Eckert’s Rhythm Shack Studio in New Orleans, where Tom Fisher and Kevin Louis added clarinet and trumpet respectively.
If Jim Lauderdale were to comment, he’d surely say, “Now, that’s Americana.” It’s clearly one of the better releases in the genre this year.
- Jim Hynes