All Good Presents
Swear and Shake
815 V St. NW
Washington, DC, 20001
Looking back over the past 25 years of rootsy, string-based music, the impact of Leftover Salmon is impossible to deny. Formed in Boulder at the end of 1989, the Colorado slamgrass pioneers were one of the first bluegrass bands to add drums and tour rock & roll bars, helping Salmon become a pillar of the jam band scene and unwitting architects of the jam grass genre.
Though the lineup would change through the years, the foundation of Leftover Salmon was built on the relationship between co-founders Drew Emmitt (vocals, guitar, fiddle, mandolin), Vince Herman (vocals, guitar,washboard) and Mark Vann (electric banjo). Following a decade of constant growth and constant touring, on March 4, 2002, Mark Vann lost his battle with cancer. Vann insisted that the band carry on and Salmon did so for several years leading up to an indefinite hiatus in 2005.
If Leftover Salmon had never played another note after leaving the stage in 2005, the legacy would have been secure; the members’ names etched in the books of history. But today, more than two decades after Salmon first took shape, the band has a new album, Aquatic Hitchhiker, due May 22 on LoS Records, a new banjo phenom named Andy Thorn, and a new lease on an old agreement. Leftover Salmon is officially back.
The 29-year-old Thorn grew up a Salmon fan in North Carolina and says the band helped him realize “this is what I want to do with my life.” Ironically, it’s his presence in the group that has given Leftover Salmon new life. “Andy’s a real young guy with a lot of great energy who plays in a way that definitely relates to Mark’s [Vann] playing and he’s a lot of fun to be around, it’s led to a real revival that just clicks on some hard to describe level” says Herman. “We’ve played with some great banjo players over the past few years, and not to say anything about them being less than great musicians, but there’s just something intangible about playing with Andy that kind of makes Drew and I look at each other and grin. This is what we’ve been missing as far as that feeling between Drew, Mark and I that used to be there.”
Produced by Los Lobos’ Steve Berlin, Aquatic Hitchhiker is Leftover Salmon’s first record in eight years and first ever of all original material. “Steve [Berlin] understood where this album needed to go and how we all needed to work together as a band to make it happen” explains Emmitt. Set for release on May 22, the recording process solidified the new Salmon, cauterizing old wounds and allowing fresh ideas to grow over past scars.
“The time is right for this band to come back on a lot of levels” says Emmitt. “It’s taken us a little while, but I think we’re finally there.”
Swear and Shake
In a city that offers endless new sounds, New York-based band Swear & Shake's loyal fan base and earnest talent have driven them on tours across the US and into the focal point of fawning critics. The band's star seems to be continually on the rise, as they play premiere Manhattan and Brooklyn venues and release their fully-Kickstarter-funded LP, Maple Ridge, only a year after their formation.
Swear & Shake is Kari Spieler (vocals, lyrics, guitar), Adam McHeffey (vocals, lyrics, guitar, banjo, piano), Shaun Savage (electric bass), and Tom Elefante (percussion). The band formed in 2010 after Kari helped Adam record a demo one of his original songs, "Johnnie." From that moment, they knew they were on to something good. Adam recruited longtime friends Shaun and Tom to flesh out the sounds behind Kari's soulful, smoky voice and Adam's catchy folk strumming.
The band was a hit from their first release in November 2010, a five track album aptly titled "Extended Play," which received over 200,000 Creative Commons downloads in North American and Europe. In the first few months, favorite tunes like "Johnnie" and "Bones" started to pop up in covers on YouTube.
Newsday praised the band, comparing them to indie darlings Mumford & Sons and Bon Iver. New York's The Deli described front lady Kari's pipes as "gorgeously full," and Brooklyn Belles compared her to “a young June Carter Cash." David Malachowski of the Daily Freeman made clear that Swear and Shake is more than fun sounds and pretty faces. “A haunting postcard from a faraway, warmer place, Spieler’s moving, heartfelt delivery takes this to a higher place,” writes Malachowski. “Daring and direct, Swear & Shake points a finger at you, and you can’t help but respond. Well done.” Frost Click called the band’s EP a “treat” and writes, “There's no denying the fact that Swear and Shake know how to make amazing sounds. The quartet has a knack for creating a wonderful balance of emotion, instruments, vocals and lyrics; making you want to listen more and more.”
Writing about their appearance at B.O.M.B. Fest opening for Weezer and Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, Connecticut's Culture Cache called their sound, "expansive, majestic, harmony-heavy," and music blog The Indie Kollection wrote, “Musical discoveries like these make me want to move to NY.” Luckily, there's still time to make the move considering blog The Feast called them "a mainstay on the New York scene."
Despite the band's critical acclaim, attending a Swear & Shake show feels like a cozy, crowded room of old friends where a guitar is picked up as the last bottle is poured. Shows at New York institutions like The Living Room, Pete's Candy Store, The Knitting Factory, Arlene's Grocery, and the Bitter End have been raucous and full of laughter and dancing. Music blog Sounds That Matter, who had the band record a video for their site testified, "It took me one day to realize I was head over heels for this band."
Using the crowd-funding site, Kickstarter, the band raised $5,250 ($750 over their goal) from over 100 individual donations to make their latest independent record. Swear and Shake used various social media outlets and endearing quirky video updates to get the word out about their Kickstarter campaign (and released a super adorable impromptu celebratory dance video when they reached their goal). Recording was finished in the early fall and the album, including recent fan favorites like "These White Walls," "Marbles," and "Wrecking Ball," will be available in early 2012.