"Mention that the title is a reference to an Ecstasy high," muttered Bart the Stoner upon learning that a review was in the works for Bridges to Bert, dating from 1993 and the earliest item in the discography of Leftover Salmon. Hopefully, drug references will not be the most enduring legacy of an eclectic outfit that promoted its set list as "poly-ethnic slamgrass." Still, there is an enduring image of frontman Vince Herman wandering on-stage for the first morning set of a brilliant music festival organized deep in the Appalachians, hefting a bong and chanting "Yes, we gonna rise up! We gonna wake and bake!" An interesting aspect of the manner in which listeners follow the activities of certain bands hasn't changed much since the days of territory bands wandering certain regions. Based out of Boulder, CO, Leftover Salmon toured mightily in many areas of the United States, among them all the southern Appalachian states. Fans of the band living there potentially might have caught ten gigs by the time Bridges to Bert was erected in 1993. Across the span of several sets, the group's exorbitant sampling of genres made plenty of sense. There was always enough time for lots of bluegrass and old-timey music, which up until the death of banjo player Mark Vann was something this group did brilliantly, perhaps with as much power as electric bluegrass pioneers the Osborne Brothers. Material desired by the boogie bozos, including reggae and Cajun, felt better in the shadowy scent of an excited audience then seeping out of a stereo speaker, a setting where it has to compete with recordings by masters in these genres. Right from the outset it didn't seem like the discography would be the place to really understand Leftover Salmon's charm or abilities. Even with the CD's extended playing time, a group that worked well in long form had to make too many choices regarding what to document and what to present. Business pressures must have been severe, as a group that has already established a certain momentum as a live act can get in the habit of expecting each new CD to be an industry breakthrough and putting it together accordingly. This type of thinking has nothing to do with what made this a fun group, hampering the quality of most of Leftover Salmon sides when obvious. That problem is combined with the usual bumps of a first release, still Bridges to Bert still leads to many wonderful vistas, especially when the lads are picking bluegrass.
AllMusic Review by Eugene Chadbourne