When a musician is at the helm of a successful band for a lengthy period of time — in this particular case, over 30 years — it’s easy to get the impression that their creative juices and individual desires are naturally fulfilled within the confines of the main gig. Indeed, to any outside observer that would seem to be the case as far as Vince Herman’s ongoing role in Leftover Salmon is concerned. After all, the group is known for a progressive posture, allowing it to easily accommodate any member’s eagerness and indulgence.
Nevertheless, Vince might have believed that the chance to step out on his own was long overdue. After all, his collaborator and cofounder Drew Emmitt has taken that opportunity himself over the years, while still keeping his devotion to the band front and center. Consequently, Herman’s Enjoy the Ride on LoHi Records offers opportunity to do all the title implies.
In truth, much of the material could easily find a fit within Leftover Salmon’s wheelhouse. The only real difference comes from the fact that unlike the irrepressible approach and insurgent style the band’s best known for, Herman tends to take more of a tender touch as far as these solo songs are concerned. That’s especially true of the sweetly sentimental offerings that dominate the album overall, with Lost Lover’s Eyes, Flying, Rather Be Alone, Old Pictures, and Better Way being the best examples. On the other hand, that’s not saying that Herman’s stoic or subdued. Any Other Way finds him indulging in what’s best described as a case of ragtime revelry, while Outta Love Songs and Drinking Alone share a somewhat sarcastic — some might say cynical — perspective. Still, there’s enough variety to allow Herman to flex some musical muscle, which is, after all, the primary purpose of any solo sojourn to begin with.
To be sure, the results can’t be credited to Herman alone. While he’s listed as a co-writer for each of the album’s entries, he’s given ample assistance from a number of others as well, among them, Aaron Rattier, Darryl Scott, Tim O’Brien, Pat McLaughlin, Ronnie Bowman, and Adam Hood. As a result, that additional input allows for some decided diversion. That said, Lately and Coraleen could find a fit within Leftover Salmon’s bluegrass bounds.
Whether or not this marks the start of further solo forays for Herman remains to be seen. Perhaps he’s merely indulging some creative whims that have been formenting for some time. Whatever the case, this is clearly a ride that’s easily enjoyed.