Leftover Salmon has been on hiatus for a while with Vince Herman, Drew Emmitt, and the rest of the bandmembers focusing on solo projects. But now they are back with Aquatic Hitchhiker, a wonderful comeback album that is full of fun and verve. The band has always been on the edge of the bluegrass world, with Emmitt’s bluegrass influences and Herman’s old-time Appalachian string music traditions being melded with many other kinds of music. The group has always described their sonic brew as “polyethnic Cajun slamgrass.” This time around, however, Salmon has brought a new spark to their jams with the addition of three-finger gunslinger Andy Thorn on banjo.
Aquatic Hitchhiker can best be described as a varied and wonderful new party album. The current lineup features Herman, Emmitt, Thorn, Greg Garrison, and Jose Martinez. Guest musicians include fiddler Jason Carter on four cuts as well as contributions from Bill McKay, Wally Ingram, Asher Fulero, Steve Berlin and Jerry Cavagnaro.
Every song on Hitchhiker is a Salmon original. The highlights on this project include a romp written by Herman and Thorn called “Keep Driving,” which gives the listeners their first taste of Thorn’s ability to rip. The next song is “Liza,” a foray into more Caribbean beach party fare. That’s followed by the Thorn-penned title track, a melodic barn-burner instrumental that starts out mellow, but soon kicks into high gear with Carter’s fiddle in tow. The rest of the album is full of a myriad of good-time beats and genres. And then, sure enough, Salmon kicks into a straight-up bluegrass song called “Kentucky Skies” written by Herman about going to his first bluegrass festival in the Bluegrass State years ago. (www.leftoversalmon.com)DH