Not much can be done with leftover salmon unless extra ingredients and spice turn it into something new. Similarly, Boulder, Col., jam band Leftover Salmon doesn't deliver anything listeners haven't tasted before in "High Country," but they do it in a way much fresher than their name would suggest. That's quite an achievement for a band started more than 20 years ago.
The group's 11th album begins with a call to action - or a call to wonder, rather - that carries through its entirety. "Get Up and Go" sets the tone for the naturalistic, inspirational music ahead by kicking off a celebration of America's nature and humanity. "Better Day" acts as an interlude reminding listeners just how much fun the band is having playing these songs.
That joy emanates in the instrumentation, which relies on LOS' decades-long tradition of incorporating multiple genres into its music. Piano features prominently on some tracks, while banjo takes the audio spotlight on others. "Light in the Woods" brings in an unexpected saxophone kicks the vocals up a notch by adding Kim Dawson's light, feminine backing to the rough male lead.
"Light in the Woods" also presents one of the most lyrically interesting pieces on the album, which explores a woodland haunting prevalent in singer and writer Drew Emmitt's Tennessee childhood. While many of the songs, such as the double entendre-laden "Home Cooking," are lighter, this one has a celestial mystery that intrigues more than the average toe-tapper.
Some of "High Country" is a tad derivative. "Two Highways" begins with a chord progression reminiscent to Chicago's "Saturday In the Park," harkening to LOS' rock sound but also cloying at any mind that can't place it. "Finish Your Beer," a rousing party song that caps off the album, incorporates the right blend of tropical and Zydeco instrumentation with laid-back humor to sound like a Jimmy Buffet tune.
But that's not to say "Finish Your Beer" - or any of "High Country's" other songs - are less notable. Instead, the album venerates not only America's wilderness, but also its classic sound. Listeners will have no problem cleaning their plates of Leftover Salmon's newest offering.