Tuesday, January 20, 2009

2008 In Music: Widespread Panic

Like Nine Inch Nails, this is another no-brainer for me. This band is tattooed on my heart. Their album from 2008 is the only one that I rushed out to buy on the release date. They also ranked as one of the best live shows I saw last year (they always do :)

Free Somehow. The first release to feature guitarist extraordinaire Jimmy Herring since he joined the band. The first track literally starts with a "boom" and the sonic journey is fantastic from start to finish. JB's voice is like a fine wine or scotch, smooth and tantalizing.

Like many albums from '08, Free Somehow has its fair share of political, societal and cultural observations. Some are subtle, others are much more obvious - like "Walk On The Flood."
We elected our leaders, so we've been told. Got no right to complain, we've bought what they sold. The slogan of the day is put peace on hold.

"Three Candles" has classic Panic elements - heady imagery, blissful guitars and keys, and spot-on vocals by John Bell. "Tickle The Truth" embodies the essence of Widespread Panic too, and it never fails to bring a smile to my face. It's got that funny edge that they often break out during their concerts. ♪ You know, these cool shades make you look bitchin'. ♪ Heh.

The title track is gentle and beautiful, with one of my favorite guitar solos on the album. Then as an instant contrast, you get the heavy and gritty "Flicker." The peak of the album for me comes with "Her Dance Needs No Body." I get chills just thinking about the saxophone and orchestral layers of that song. The remaining two tracks, "Already Fried" and "Up All Night" are a delicious denouement.

Of course, I would always prefer to have my Panic served up to me on a stage somewhere, but this album proves that the band is still evolving and can hold it down in the studio. Keep it comin' boys.