The eponymous new CD from Leftover Salmon lives up to the group's longstanding self-description of "Polyethnic Cajun Slamgrass." The album is a roller coaster ride through alternating styles, from blues and ballads to Cajun and bluegrass, with a good helping of folk and acoustic flavor.

The seventh effort from the sextet features Little Feat's Bill Payne as producer and is a celebration and culmination of the group as an entity. One thing that jumps to the forefront is the banjo of Noam Pikelny, proclaiming his arrival as an integral part of the band's makeup, and perhaps offering tribute to fallen brother and co-founder Mark Vann and the tribulations following his passing. The group chose to go this disc mostly alone (a departure from the many guest artists on Nashville Sessions), with the exception of Payne adding boogie-woogie piano on the rousing "Whispering Waters."

The band delivers the style of a typically rowdy Salmon concert with songs by the two founding members Drew Emmit and Vince Herman traded back and forth, along with a couple of tunes from keyboardist Bill McKay. From the opening strains of "Down in the Hollow," you can hear Salmon's association last summer with Del McCoury was not in vain; they fly right into a great jamgrass flow, showing they're as competent a bluegrass band as there is on the scene today.

The highlight of the effort is the folk-based rendering "Hey Woody Guthrie," where Vince longs for the simpler days gone by. It's a powerful political cry for the young generation to get a soul and leave the commercialism behind and care about the land, sung very much in the Woody Guthrie vein and makes a strong statement of what's wrong in today's world.

This album represents Leftover Salmon's finest effort to date. What comes across strong in their live shows transforms to a wonderful, magical recording. With expert production and instruments that seem to jump right out in front of you, the Salmon boys have created a real keeper with this one.

George Weiss
JamBase | Worldwide
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[Published on: 4/19/04]

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