Friday, May 14, 2010

Widespread Panic - Dirty Side Down

It is not surprising that Panic’s first studio album with guitarist Jimmy Herring on board is their most satisfying work since original member Michael Houser passed. It is a mature album filled with carefully crafted songs and great playing, and feels like a band back on top after a shaky few years. Having longtime collaborator John Keane back in the producer’s chair and contributing guitars and vocals is the first thing you notice. It sounds like Widespread Panic again. His spacious and lean production gives the band the room they need to inhabit their songs, allowing them to approximate the vibe they get on stage (listen to the instrumental “St. Louis” for a nice example). Principal songwriter and vocalist John Bell has never sounded better vocally as he demonstrates on “Shut Up and Drive” (which includes a completely deranged solo by Herring -almost like Zappa) or the complex opening song “St. Ex.” His vocals are an acquired taste for some, but he has grown into his voice and expanded his range enough to accommodate more difficult ballads, in addition to the warm growl he employs on up-tempo numbers. Two of the best songs on the album are written by familiar friends of the band; Jerry Joseph’s “North” is a song that they have been playing for at least a decade and goes back to Joseph’s Boulder based band Little Women before that. It is a perfect song for Panic and this is a nice version to memorialize it. It captures much of the live excitement. The recently departed songwriter Vic Chesnutt is paid tribute on his haunting “This Cruel Thing” which JB does proud. Saving best for last is the new song “Cotton Was King” which is an immediate classic and fertile ground for live treatment. A classic album cover often bodes well, and in this case it looks and sounds like a big return to form for Widespread Panic.

So you may have heard we are doing a Widespread Panic instore on June 24th. Yes, hard to believe-they are actually going to perform in a record store. That is indeed the good news. The slightly less good news is if you don’t already have your golden ticket the boat has already sailed. In an unbelievable display of internet connectedness, we made one tweet, and one mention on facebook and within 12 hours we had sold out the event and the Onion was making snarky remarks about hippies on Colfax. We have a long history with the band and this is their third time visiting Twist & Shout, but this happened fast! So what can we do for you? How’s this: Submit your favorite Widespread Panic memory to and we will pick our two favorites. Those people will get a very special poster that we're making for the Widespread Panic event at the store that will be signed by the band. Unfortunately we're already at capacity and can't give out tickets to the winner, because the fire marshall may have an aneurism, but we'll post a handful of essays here on Spork... Is that incentive to write like you haven’t written since ninth grade study hall???

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

it's actually Jimmy's second album with the band (Free Somehow was his first with Panic)