Leftover Salmon has never shied away from a party, and their latest offering Something Higher continues to keep the good vibes going, but, as the title implies, the band isn’t just living for the weekend anymore. On the cusp of their third decade together, Leftover Salmon puts forth an elevated and impassioned message on their latest studio offering.
Multi-instrumentalist Drew Emmitt kicks off the album with the location-dropping road song “Places,” referencing every corner of the country as a testament to Leftover’s decades of touring. A nod to celebrating the beauty of the country through storytelling, in the tradition of John Denver and similar musicians that influenced Emmitt and company to relocate to the Rockies decades ago, the song also sets the tone of a very Americana-focused album, as opposed to some of Leftover’s more bluegrass-influenced material of the past.
Emmitt’s screaming guitar lick launches the title track, which sees he and fellow co-founder Vince Herman trade verses bathed in accompanying horns, giving the track a massive foundation for its optimistic outlook. “Show me something higher, show me a better way,” Emmitt and Herman sing together, their voices as strong as ever. Bassist Greg Garrison’s love letter to “Analog” is an aptly timed track that pays homage to the fact that the band recorded the album straight to tape at the famed Wavelab Studio in Tuscon, Ariz., along with long-time producer Steve Berlin.
But it’s track number five, “House of Cards,” where the group really begins to share what’s on their mind and reveal some of the deeper messages behind the record. “How’d we get here my brother? How does the story end,” sings Herman. “With idiocracy rising how do we come back again? Back into a future where I’ll believe in it, where everybody matters, love’s got to win again.” On the heels of that message, Leftover Salmon — which also includes banjo slayer Andy Thorn, drummer Alwyn Robinson and keyboardist Erik Deutsch — show a range of emotions and an optimism despite the struggles.
Every member of the band contributed writing efforts on Something Higher, which adds to the rich tapestry of Americana hanging throughout this record. Deutsch co-wrote “Places” with Emmitt, while Garrison teamed up with Herman for “Analog” and “Let In A Little Light.” The Garrison-penned “Burdened Heart” features a great “Lucy In The Sky” sort of opener. Robinson wrote and provides vocals on the questing “Foreign Fields” and Thorn turned in the instrumental “Game of Thorns,” as well as the celebration of spring “Winter’s Gone.”
It’s clearly not the first time that the members of Leftover Salmon have collectively shared the songwriting duties, but there’s a cohesiveness in this latest exploration that finds Leftover Salmon comfortably holding its place in the moving currents of cosmic-minded roots music. The band can still get as crazy as they did on their 1992 debut Bridges To Bert, and they can still furiously pick with patented relaxed precision, but on Something Higher the legendary group reminds listeners that we could all use some reflective thinking amidst it all.
eTown Hall | May 4
Red Rocks Amphitheatre | May 5