Leftover Salmon marks new album with free concert

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DENVER (AP) — It's been a decade since "slam-grass" pioneers Leftover Salmon lost their original banjo player, Mark Vann, to cancer. And it's been eight years since the 22-year-old jam band recorded an album.

Founding members Drew Emmitt and Vince Herman have kept up with fans with reunion shows, DVDs and side projects. But it wasn't until last year that they went back to the studio with the band's current lineup to start recording a new album, "Aquatic Hitchhiker," which comes out May 22.

It includes a mix of bluegrass, country, Americana, blues, jazz and classical influences, plus some unexpected hints of New Orleans and calypso.

Leftover Salmon is celebrating with a free street concert and afternoon block party Sunday in Denver's Art District on Santa Fe Drive. The event also will support Conscious Alliance, which works to feed the hungry by holding food drives at music and sports events.

"We are really psyched to be back doing this together again," Herman said. "To have a chance to blow it up in the streets of our hometown is a dream come true."

As with several of the band's past concerts, the show will be streamed live online.

"These days, I don't know how you sell a record other than getting people to talk about it. The Internet is a valuable tool in that," Herman said. "For a bunch of old guys, we're trying to make it go."

The album is the band's first with 29-year-old Andy Thorn on banjo. Leftover Salmon was one of the first bands Thorn saw as a teen in North Carolina. Thorn was already playing with Emmitt on a side project with Bill Nershi of The String Cheese Incident when he filled in with Leftover Salmon in 2010 for another banjo player who wasn't available, but the chemistry was good enough that Thorn is now part of the band.

Herman said Thorn is a big part of why Leftover Salmon returned to the studio.

"He really brings a lot of good, youthful, driving energy to the banjo. It reminds us a lot of the playing of Mark Vann," Herman said.

Herman expected the band to play for at least four hours of the block party: "We've been saving up for this one," he said.

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