With their new album, Something Higher, longtime Americana purveyors Leftover Salmon taps into everything from horn-blasting R&B to reverb-drenched desert noir, from the cosmic roots music sound they helped create to neo-New Orleans-meets-Appalachia liquefaction. There's an unmistakable evolution to Leftover Salmon's sound here, and Something Higher has an edge to it that feels entirely new.
To create the album, Leftover Salmon returned to long-time producer Steve Berlin (Los Lobos) with a new mission: to record at the famed Wavelab Studio in Tucson, AZ, and to go all analogue. The warmth of analogue, coupled with Berlin's uncommonly attuned ear for the dynamics of larger bands, brought a more focused sound to the group and challenged them as well. Over 10 days in Tucson, Leftover Salmon laid out the new music, each songwriter bringing a songwriting kernel and letting the rest of the band work out new improvisations to craft the final song. The key to the band's music, now more than ever, is the way they marry technical precision with easy groove. It's a trick that old jazz players used to pull, a dance between virtuosity and the illusion of ease.
In crafting the new music, founding members Vince Herman and Drew Emmitt provide a foundational focus and guiding spirit, while banjo player Andy Thorn keeps the band close to their original roots in backstage picking parties. The rhythm section – bassist Greg Garrison, keyboardist Erik Deutsch, and drummer Alwyn Robinson – was a key focus point for Berlin, who drew out members' backgrounds in jazz and hip-hop to zero in on the heart of Leftover Salmon: the groove.