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Leftover Salmon

Something Higher – 2018 (LoS Records)

Reviewed by Lee Zimmerman

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CDs by Leftover Salmon

Leftover Salmon have always been somewhat elusive in their MO. Eclectic entrepreneurs, regulars at the annual Telluride Bluegrass Festival and absolute heroes to homegrown fans in their native Colorado, this remarkable outfit finds broader meaning in a jam band world where populist precepts continue to attract a new generation of free-spirited musical aficionados.

Combining fast-paced picking and upbeat rhythms in tune with their rowdy, devil-may-care sensibilities, they also bring an inherent sensitivity and style that harkens back to earlier traditional tunings. The skittish "Analog" is a prime example. "Don't want no digital," they declare over the back porch plucking of banjo and mandolin. Here again, music and message mesh perfectly.

It's little wonder then that Leftover Salmon has staked a reputation as one of the more innovative outfits populating today's so-called nu-grass movement. Referring to their eclectic mix of bluegrass, rock, country and zydeco as "Polyethnic Cajun Slamgrass," they demonstrate that tack here with the eerie "Astral Traveler" and "House of Cards," a dark description of today's present day malaise in the wake of the last election. Fortunately, there's hope in that happenstance. The lyric that reads "Love is gonna win again" provides the song's recurring mantra.

Happily though, Leftover Salmon temper those darker designs with a celebration of their free-roaming lifestyle on opening track "Places" and in the steady pluck of "Evermore," an homage to their mountain home as well as an expression of love for other locales near and far. There again is the proof positive that despite all life's adversity, this diverse sextet is content to keep rolling on. The horn-infused title track finds them still aspiring to that upper plateau and indeed, succeeding admirably. Indeed, "Something Higher" suggests there's always greater heights to aspire to.

Lee Zimmerman is a freelance writer based in Maryville, Tenn. He also expounds on music on his web site, Beyond the Music.