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Leftover Salmon makes a comeback

Leftover Salmon fans were undoubtedly thrilled when the trailblazing jam band regrouped in 2010 to play the Telluride Bluegrass Festival in Colorado.

Things have only gotten better since. The group spent two years playing select shows and released its first studio album in eight years, "Aquatic Hitchhiker," in May.

"I don't think anybody knew whether or not Leftover Salmon would make a comeback," says string player and vocalist Drew Emmitt. "We didn't even think we were going to do it again."

Leftover Salmon performs at 7 p.m. Wednesday, June 27, at the Britt Pavilion, 350 First St., Jacksonville.

The idea of performing together again tugged at co-founders Emmitt and Vince Herman, along with bassist Greg Garrison, drummer Jose Martinez and banjo player Matt Flinner. The group settled on a modest number of festivals and headlining dates.

A new record, though, was another matter.

"Our manager, John Joy, really pushed us to record," Emmitt says. "He said if you guys don't do something new, this is just going to die."

It was the group's own creativity that got the best of it, and plans to make "Aquatic Hitchhiker" took shape last year. The band, along with new banjo player Andy Thorn, took steps to improve the chances that the project wouldn't tarnish the existing spirit of rebirth.

"We wanted to just let it unfold," Emmitt says. "We sat down and wrote songs together, collaborated and came together as a band," he says. "Once we were in there, it was a blast."

The good vibes Leftover Salmon felt in making "Aquatic Hitchhiker" are apparent on the CD. The group's amalgam of bluegrass and rock, which it calls "slamgrass," is very much intact as songs such as "Keep Driving" and the title track feature plenty of fast-picking banjo and mandolin to go with their rootsy melodies. The band also throws a few curveballs into the mix, getting a bit swampy on "Gulf of Mexico," touching on Cajun music on the loping "Bayou Town" and dipping into a bit of Grateful Dead-ish folk rock on "Sing Up to the Moon."

It's a sweet return for a band that helped build the jam-band scene. The band released four studio albums before its hiatus and routinely racked up 200 shows a year.

"There's definitely a lot of energy and a lot of cohesion going on right now," Emmitt says. "It's kind of vintage Salmon, but at the same time, it's brand-new Salmon."

Tickets cost $36 for reserved seating, $26 for lawn and $18 for ages 12 and younger. Premium blanket seating for four is $144.

Call 541-773-6077, see www.brittfest.org or visit the box office at 216 W. Main St., Medford.

Leftover Salmon released four studio albums before the band began its hiatus in 2005. Its newest, 'Aquatic Hitchhiker,' was released in May.