“Wood” Album Review

by Elise

If you were lucky enough to catch Widespread Panic on their acoustic tour, you know how coveted tickets were among the fans of the band—a band who has, since 1986, become the epitome of the Jam Band.  As a rock band formed in Georgia, Widespread Panic’s progressive southern rock sounds have been creating an enthralling experience for audiences for years.  With this year’s first ever acoustic tour, Widespread Panic once again sets the bar for jam bands everywhere.  Leading up to a hiatus that was, for a long time, said to only be a rumor by their reluctant fans, the 11 show tour was truly a legendary tour for Widespread Panic and the history of live music. The sold-out tour began on January 24 with two nights at The Fillmore in Silver Spring, Maryland, followed by three nights at The Tabernacle in Atlanta, Georgia, January 27-29, then to Colorado for three nights at The Fillmore -Denver, February 10-12 and wrapped up with three shows at the Belly Up-Aspen in Aspen, Colorado, February 17-19

If you didn’t get to catch a show on the tour, you can hear all the magic on their live album, Wood, being released October 16.  The acoustic instruments compliment their southern rock sound, and the first song on the album, “Ballad of John and Yoko,” is the band’s enthusiastic acoustic debut. Taking place at the beautiful Fillmore in Silver Spring on January 25th, the song sets the tone with its laid-back country feel. The next 3 songs are also from their first show: “Mercy,” “Imitation Leather Shoes,” and “Clinic Cynic.” John Bell’s crooning vocals in “Mercy” invoke an intimate feeling as if you were there, then “Imitation Leather Shoes” and “Clinic Cynic” break you from your trance and get you on the dance floor.

JoJo Hermann takes the spotlight during the fan favorite “Tall Boy,” setting the tempo for the song and wowing the crowd with his piano solo.  Col. Bruce Hampton of Hampton Grease band, and Jimmy’s former band mate in Aquarium Rescue Unit, provides bluesy vocals to compliment Jimmy’s passionate guitar picking in “Fixin to Die,” performed January 27th in Atlanta.  A soulful “Climb to Safety” takes on a romantic tone, the percussion more subdued and John’s vocals relaxed and filled with emotion.  Tracks such as “Counting Train Cars” and “Ain’t Life Grand” have a feel-good southern rock appeal and get the audience slapping their knees and tapping their feet.

The four songs featured from their last stop on the tour, Aspen, Colorado, are “St. Louis,” “Time Waits,” “Sell Sell,” and “Tail Dragger.”  “Sell Sell” pleases us with JoJo’s tinkling keys and funky guitar, while “Tail Dragger” is some down and dirty southern blues with John’s voice crackling into the microphone.

The last two songs, “Blight” and “End of the Show”, take place on the last day of their Atlanta show, and the crowd can be heard in a rousing sing along on the tracks.  You can almost hear their tearful gratitude as John says “Thank you Ladies and Gents.”  We share the same sentiment ending the CD.

Whether you are a die-hard Widespread Panic fan who never misses a show, or have never heard about the band before, all can enjoy this CD.  It will get you dancing, relaxing, and singing along.  A gift for us fans suffering through the band’s hiatus, we will treasure Wood forever.  You can pre-order the CD now or wait until it’s release on October 16th.  You can catch Widespread Panic live at their New Years Eve show in Charlotte, NC, but good luck getting a ticket!  With their elite status among the music scene, Widespread Panic will be selling out shows for the rest of their career and we couldn’t be more excited!

go to www.widespreadpanic.com for more info