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Electric bluegrass at the Boot

Drew Emmitt band joined by String Cheese Incident’s Billy Nershi for special tour



What: The Drew Emmitt Band

When: Monday, Dec. 5

Where: The Boot Pub

Tickets: $20, 604-932-3338

The mandolin is stereotypically associated with traditional bluegrass music. However, for Drew Emmitt, first versed in playing the electric guitar, he plays the mandolin more like an electric guitar with slides, kicking the traditional apparatus into overdrive as an instant rock and roll instrument.

"The mandolin has a very ‘old timey’ almost baroque kind of sound," Emmitt said. "It’s always been a haunting sound for me. I’ve always been drawn to the tone. It has a lot of similarities to the electric guitar. It adds that drive to the band. You can do a lot with the mandolin. You can bring in a lot of styles. You can play blues, folk and rock. It’s very versatile. You are starting to see more people using the electric mandolin."

Emmitt will cross traditional bluegrass boundaries with The Drew Emmitt Band and special guest Billy Nershi of the String Cheese Incident as part of the special West Coast North American acoustic tour wrapping up in Whistler Monday, Dec. 5 at the Boot Pub.

You may be familiar with Drew Emmitt’s progressive bluegrass tunes from his early days with Leftover Salmon, the American-based quintet that has been a force in the Colorado music scene for over a decade.

However, the Boulder-based musician went solo with his debut album, Freedom Ride and recently released his second solo album Across the Bridge with Compass Records in July of this year – tallying up his recording career to 10 albums.

"The response has been great," said Emmitt of his two solo albums. "I’ve been waiting to record an acoustic record for a long time."

The show includes band member Greg Garrison of Leftover Salmon on bass, Nershi on guitar and Chris Pandolfi on banjo.

Both traditional and newgrass sounds will weave themselves into the concert lineup mix.

"It takes a few more chances," Emmitt said of newgrass. "I love bluegrass and stay true to its roots, but I also like to write my own tunes and put my own twist to it."

Emmitt’s original approach to the mandolin has made him one of the nation’s top mandolin players. He has pioneered techniques using combinations of overdrive, slides and foot pedals to emulate the sound of steel drums and electric slide guitar.

Emmitt is enjoying the freedom of his solo career.

"I like to get out and play with different bands," he said. "The fact that I am not locked into one band frees me up to do different projects."

Nershi will get a change of scenery, taking a break from the String Cheese Incident to tour with the Drew Emmitt Band.

Listeners can expect sets made up of songs from Emmitt’s two solo albums, some Leftover Salmon favourites, traditional bluegrass and a few String Cheese Incident classics.

"We try to touch on everything we can," Emmitt said. "This is (my) first time playing as a solo act in Whistler and (we) are looking forward to it."

Tickets are $20 and are available at the Boot Pub at 604-932-3338 or through Ticketmaster.