‘Aquatic Hitchhiker’ gets a thumbs up
Reunion albums, like reunion tours, can be dangerous territory for bands hoping to reignite the fire that brought them success in the first place.
Too often, the reasons the band members went their separate ways in the first place are reignited instead.
Fortunately, for fans of self-described “poly-ethnic Cajun slam-grass” band Leftover Salmon, no detectible ill effects of a forced reunion are evident in the band’s new album, “Aquatic Hitchhiker.”
Leftover Salmon formed in Boulder, Colo., in the late 1980s and experienced a tremendous run – if not in album sales, then in plenty of high profile concerts in front of thousands of diehard fans.
One of the trademarks of any good Salmon show was the collection of interesting cover tunes the band would attempt. Interestingly, the new album is the band’s first to debut all original compositions.
“One of the magical things about Leftover Salmon is there’s a lot of symbiosis,” said Vince Herman, one of the founding members of the band. “It’s been really exciting to get back to the studio and bounce off of each other’s ideas.”
Taking over where bands, such as New Grass Revival, left off, the Leftover Salmon sound is defined by instruments like mandolins, fiddles, banjoes and upright bass guitars that are more commonly associated with country and bluegrass. But the Salmon infuses its songs with elements of rock, Cajun and even some jam-band excursions into the experimental.
Of course, the band is perfectly capable of delivering a more straightforward country sound, as on the MerleFest-friendly tune, “Kentucky Skies,” or on the John Hartford-esque “Gone For Long.”
But they really hit their stride when they stretch their sound, as on the spacious and wonderful “Light Behind the Rain.”
The reunited band features Herman on vocals, guitar and mandolin, Drew Emmitt on vocals, mandolin, guitar, mandola and fiddle, Andy Thorn on vocals, banjo and National resonator guitar, Greg Garrison on vocals, bass and guitar, and Jose Martinez on percussion.
Herman wrote about half of the songs on the new album, with Emmitt and Thorn divvying up the rest.
“I write songs from overheard conversations, divine revelations, romantic obsessions, socio-economic insights and an urge to say something funny,” Herman said. “Sometimes the lyrics come first; sometimes they’re married to a progression that sprouts on its own. I’m constantly battling the tendency to over-think and have the lyric lose its conversational flow. At the same time, I like to have each line move the narrative along efficiently.
“I’m just hoping to keep something interesting happening at all times to keep the listener involved.”
Herman and his bandmates take turns on the instrumental breaks, and all of them are masters of their craft. On tunes like “Here Comes the Night,” the band channels its inner Grateful Dead, turning the song into a bluesy jam that twists its way back to the beginning.
A nice aspect of the new album is that is filled with songs that can be replicated on stage, meaning the lack of overdubs and guest musicians will benefit those fans who see them live in the near future.
Locally, Leftover Salmon will be one of the acts in the upcoming FloydFest in Floyd, Va., on July 7.
For more information on Leftover Salmon, visit http://www.leftoversalmon.com.