Band Feature: Salt Creek

by Jeremy Berg / photos by Peter DiAntoniSalt Creek

Salt Creek is, in theory, a bluegrass band. However, Colin O’Brien is talking of celtic influences, and a distinctly middle-eastern sound is coming out of the speakers. O’Brien is the band leader and banjo player of Salt Creek, and we are listening to a rough mix of their debut album, Rollin’ Forward. Clearly, the band’s preferred description, “new-fangled string band,” is more appropriate. “Music is like… anti-categorical. The music business is about setting it up and marketing, but music itself — isn’t it about not having those boundries?”

In Salt Creek it is. Made up of core members O’Brien and Guy Fiorentini (bass) as well as Liisa Church on fiddle, Jim Eannelli on guitar, and John Seydewitz on drums, Salt Creek draws from a wide range of styles. Church has a classical background and Eanelli has been active in blues and alt. country, including Absinthe, the side project of Sam Llanas of the BoDeans. Fiorentini has been gigging all over Riverwest since 1985, and O’Brien is a veteran musician as well. That diversity was on display recently at Maxfest, where Salt Creek’s performance included bluegrass, Irish music, ragtime, and a shivering minor-key take on the traditional “Walkin’ Cane.” The band handled each style with aplomb, a feat that comes of quality components. Salt Creek comprises a crew of veteran musicians, skilled to the point where they only practice as a group to learn new material. “Each individual player is really advanced… I feel lucky, honestly,” says O’Brien. The high skill level also supports the band’s penchant for improvisation. “That’s what we like to do, is go away and come back, and not lose people in the process.” Onstage, the rapport between the musicians is such that the different instruments meld together with ease; the band plays as one with no apparent effort. Solos are traded seamlessly and crescendos and changes in tempo are executed in perfect unison — and this is only Eannelli’s second performance with the band. Most importantly, everyone looks like they’re having fun up there, and the mood is infectious. Salt CreekThis enthusiasm stems, in part, from the band’s environment. O’Brien has lived in Riverwest for the last six years, and finds it “great. For me, it’s been all good. I can go out and play, I can get paid, I can have fun… fun’s contagious. If you start playing and the lights go on, that is the scene… that’s at the core of it.” For Salt Creek, the lights are on. Salt Creek’s first CD, Rollin’ Forward, was released May 23 and is available at the band’s gigs and on It will also be available on Salt Creek’s website,, which is currently under construction. Riverwest Currents – Volume 2 – Issue 6 – June 2003

Press, Gigs, Music, People, Press, Gigs


Ah, the life of a professional musician. Play a few gigs, record here and there, then lay back and take it easy, right? Uh, not exactly… “Phone days,” O’Brien says, are one of those things that can’t be avoided. “It’s mainly button pushing and message leaving.” Salt Creek works with booking agents Best Artists, but O’Brien still makes a lot of arrangements himself. “People do call me, and that’s good… but if I stop putting out, I’ll get some [gigs] but not enough.” There’s a mailing list that needs maintaining as well, and, in the last few months, there’s been a CD to put together. “When things start to get really busy,” he jokes “I defend my music time with a big sword…because that’s where it all comes from.” In the daily life of a musician, “the consistencies are the hands-on playing and the hands on the telephone.” However, we should not ignore what all the effort is for. As O’Brien says, “my favorite days are when I can play all day — to not just keep up with what I’m doing, but noodle and explore.”

by Jeremy Berg  

Salt Creek