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Emmitt-Nershi Band

New Country Blues – 2009 (Sci-Fidelity)

Reviewed by Kevin Oliver

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CDs by Emmitt-Nershi Band

Separately, Leftover Salmon and the String Cheese Incident redefined bluegrass in a jam rock fashion, or maybe they re-imagined jam rock as a bluegrass idiom, but either way the genres involved were both stretched to their outer limits on albums and especially live shows. This collaborative effort between the former band's Drew Emmitt and the latter's Bill Nershi, then, could have been another exercise in noodling around-instead it emerges as an engaging and intriguing journey through some not-so-esoteric territory.

Emmitt's mandolin has already been heard on other solo albums playing everything from straight bluegrass to world music, and Surfing the Red Sea offers up a vaguely Turkish instrumental that's sure to please fans of his more otherworldly output.

The presence of Nershi on guitar and Dobro, as well as several lead vocal turns, serves to temper the proceedings and channel them into something approximating 1970s country-rock on the optimistic Wait Until Tomorrow and the appropriately bluesy title track.

Guests provide some sparks on various songs, from Rob Ickes to Keith Moseley, but when your core band includes Jason Carter on fiddle and Andy Thorn on banjo, extra personnel are almost unnecessary. They add as much to the songs as the guys on the marquee - see Thorn's own composition Flight of the Durban for an example of the interplay between all of the players, with not a note or performance wasted.

Call it whatever you want--bluegrass, newgrass, jam-grass; but stick to calling it great music made by great musicians not afraid to test their limits and try something new.