Moonlighting and an open relationship are two things that come along with the life of a new-grass musician. There’s the encouragement to get out there and experiment with some other like-minded musicians, the kind of musicians you could have a fun romp with but don’t want to make a full-time thing. Perhaps if that romp results in a pleasing musical racket, you take it a step further: write some songs, get in the studio and record, and do some short tours. As long as the full-time partners, the ones you want to have a long-term relationship with, approve, and the extra-curricular work doesn’t get in the way of your full-time job, you should be good to go.
The Infamous Stringdusters’ Jeremy Garrett, and Leftover Salmon’s Drew Emmitt, Greg Garrison, and Alwyn Robinson are no strangers to that lifestyle, all capable of hitting the stage with colleagues to explore songs and sounds outside of the songs and sounds made with their respected, full-time bands. Garrett, Emmitt, Garrison, and Robinson will perform at the Animas City Theatre on Saturday, June 3.
It’s a quartet of virtuosos; the rhythm section of bass player Garrison and drummer Robinson are a versatile duo, capable of holding down stretches of new-grass and improvisation. Both Emmitt and Garrett are multi-instrumentalists, with a catalog of originals and a knowledge of bluegrass and rock ’n’ roll. Their paths have crossed multiple times in the festival world, and their full-time bands are willing and able to play right up to an edge that often results in musical curveballs and blind leaps that result in sonic satisfaction.
This tour was born from Garrett’s “Fiddle Science Project,” a band that features the rhythm section of Garrison and Robinson, where Garrett explores playing the fiddle as an electric instrument, a Jean-Luc Ponty-inspired dose of fusion via new-grass music. Emmitt is a pickin’ pal and along for the ride.
New for Garrett is playing with this kind of rhythm section.
“I feel like those guys are the best rhythm section in the music business. I’ll be doing some singing, but to have drums and electric bass, that’ll be a first for me as far as me trying to play and sing with that,” said Garrett. “It’s something I’m super excited about. I’ve played music with those guys over the years; it’s not the first time we’ve played together, it’s more like we’ve had this friendship and this music vibe happening; now here is some new stuff to throw into the mix. It’ll be fun to see what it turns out to be.”
The Infamous Stringdusters remain consistent in their studio output and touring; Leftover Salmon was just in Tucson recording their next record. As busy as these guys are with their bands, it’s the side projects that provide inspiration.
“It’s fun to branch out and it’s fun to play songs in a different context,” said Emmitt. “It’s always refreshing, as much as I love playing with Salmon, it’s always fun to do other things.”
“I always want to play with some of the best musicians I can at all times. I want to put together the best band that I can and try to play the very best music that I can,” said Garrett. “I love it, it’s my passion, it’s my work, I love the Stringdusters, we’re not going anywhere, but this side stuff is very fun for me to pursue.”
Bryant Liggett is a freelance writer and KDUR station manager. [email protected]