Although their instrumentation is based on the traditional bluegrass lineup of banjo, fiddle, guitar, and bass, Salamander Crossing has consistently crossed over into a variety of musical genres. Their repertoire not only includes bluegrass standards by Bill Monroe and the Stanley Brothers, but songs by Richard Thompson, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Bruce Cockburn, Kate Wolf, Shawn Colvin, Maura O'Connell, Bruce Springsteen, and Lennon & McCartney.
Salamander Crossing gets its name from an annual Spring event in Amherst, Massachusetts in which hundreds of salamanders attempt to transfer from winter grounds, through a pair of tunnels, to a vernal pond across the street. The group was sparked when several members attended a John Hartford workshop. When Hartford failed to show, the musicians spent time talking and playing together. The remaining bandmembers joined shortly afterwards. Salamander Crossing continues to center around the vocals and fiddling of Rani Arbo, the guitar, mandolin, harmonica, and vocals of Jeff Kelliher, and the upright bass playing of Andrew Kinsey. Although guest banjo player Tony Furtado played on the group's first two albums, Tom Farnham joined the band in 1996. Farnham was replaced by Dave Dick the following year. Dick, who won the world banjo championship in Ontario, Canada, while still a high school student, had previously worked with Boston-based bluegrass band, Southern Rail.
Salamander Crossing's debut album remained on the Gavin Americana chart for eight weeks. Their second album, "Passion Train," was produced by western Massachusetts-based singer/songwriter Brooks Williams. Their third album, "Bottleneck Dreams," released in 1998, was recorded in Nashville and produced by Canadian songwriter Colin Linder. In addition to the band's usual instrumentation, the album featured Hammond organ, accordion, electric and steel guitars. Two years later, Henry Street was released.