Enjoy the Ride

In a different timeline Vince Herman would have been an outlaw-country songwriter playing pinball with Waylon Jennings and rolling endless doobies with Willie Nelson while writing songs that would have been classics on the fringe of country.  In this timeline Herman has been the leader of the progenitors of slamgrass and jamgrass pioneers Leftover Salmon, crafting sounds that stretch musical boundaries.  A recent move to Nashville has found Herman becoming immersed in the city’s intense songwriting culture.  The release of his first solo album, Enjoy the Ride, gives a brief glimpse of what might have been in that alternate timeline.  

Herman’s immersion in Nashville’s songwriting scene has allowed his songwriting craft to grow exponentially.  He says it forced him to not just finish writing songs, but to fully complete them.  With Leftover Salmon he always had the rest of the band to count on when needed, as he was able to rely on Drew Emmitt and Andy Thorn’s instrumental acrobatics to really complete a song and wrap it up in a bow.  With Emmitt’s electrifying mandolin and Thorn’s high-wire banjo stripped away the simple beauty of Herman’s songwriting is fully revealed.

His songwriting has long had an everyman quality to it, as he pens songs that resonate with all, often writing about simple themes and simple pleasures.  On Enjoy the Ride those same related themes are still present, but Herman delivers them with a depth and emotion not always present in his work with Leftover Salmon.  Herman has crafted an album worth of engaging stories and characters who are living their lives in each song in vivid detail.  Whereas Leftover Salmon often relies on instrumental might, on Enjoy the Ride Herman flexes his lyrical strength.  Inside of what seems to be a straightforward love song, “The Ride,” Herman tucks in what could be his life mantra when he sings, “I was made for the road less traveled.”  Enjoy the Ride still features Herman’s always inventive word play, proclaiming he “knows the difference between flying and falling,” on “Flying,” while on “Drinking Alone,” he sings, “I didn’t pick up that bottle, it jumped right off that shelf, I’m having this party here by myself.”

While sonically the album clearly reflects its Nashville birthplace, with a less bluegrass rooted and more country sound, it does not mean Herman entirely eschewed his adventurous ways as there is still wandering, road-tripping feel to the album, landing in a number of the musical hollers that have defined his musical voyage over the years.  The Cajun cruise of “Coraleen” represents one of Herman’s lifetime musical crushes with its trip to the bayou and is highlighted by the accordion, an important musical touchstone for Herman dating back to his youth in Carnegie, Pennsylvania.  “Any Other Way,” with its jazzy-polka swing, also harkens back to his youth.  The album opening “Lost Lover’s Eyes” and “Drinking Alone,” both reflect their Nashville birth, while both “Better Way” and “Lately” would sound perfectly at home in a Leftover Salmon set.

Enjoy the Ride recalls the glory days of outlaw country, rooted in tradition, but with a wandering, adventurous, eye that is willing to take the road to wherever it may lead.  

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