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Welcome back Leftover Salmon

Paradise, Boston, October 4, 2012

Reviewed by Jeffrey B. Remz

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"It's been a little while," said shaggy, gray-haired singer Vince Herman as Leftover Salmon took the stage. In fact, LOS last appeared in Beantown nine years ago! But with a CD - "Aquatic Hitchhiker" - out earlier this year, LOS is back on the road.

At about 400 people, the crowd could have been bigger, but that did not seem to affect the bluegrass-country-jam band at all in a lengthy ( 2 hours over two sets) exploration of the band's music.

Leftover Salmon is led by Drew Emmitt on mandolin and lead vocals and Herman on acoustic guitar and lead vocals. While Herman tended to be the front man - at least when it came to talking - Emmitt is and should be the focal point of the band.

It's hard to say which to emphasize more - his vocal abilities or his musicianship. He was a far better singer than Herman, who could deliver a song, but lacked the warmth and range of Emmitt, who added a dose of intensity as well.

When it came to playing, Emmitt was stellar whether on mandolin or electric guitar. Throughout the night, he anchored the songs with his playing - exact, sometimes steely and always understated.

Herman and Emmitt may be the mainstays, but they were not the sum and total of LOS. Andy Thorn turned in a bunch of good licks on banjo and National Guitar. Drummer Jose Martinez and bassist Greg Garrison (he was particularly good on the new Sing Up to the Moon) ably manned the rhythm section.

A continuous ace in the hole was the fiddle player, called Bobby Berklee by Herman, for his Berklee College of Music status. His real name is Bobby Britt, and Herman had better learn it fast because he sure was good and fit in quite well with his mates.

Thorn took lead on a few songs and was passable, but has a ways to go before really being a lead singer. He did not exactly bring the energy in his delivery. One almost wishes he had left the vocal chores to Emmitt, even if he did write the song.

The hour-long first set moved along at a steady clip with not too much extended jamming. The second set was a different. At 1 hours, it led to far more jamming, although most of the extended playing made a lot of musical sense without drifting off into boredom. The quintet maintained its musical intensity throughout with about the only needless part, a short solo stint from both Garrison and Martinez. It just didn't add anything to the beauty of the songs and seemed more like a chance to give a nod to the band members.

Bluegrass underpins LOS' sound, but they also added a healthy dose of country to the mix. It was easy to understand why the group was bent on touring behind the new disc- there is a lot of quality material there ranging from the good grooves of Gulf of Mexico to Kentucky Skies.

Yes, it was a long time, but shows like this make for a most enjoyable welcome back.