Widespread Panic

Free Somehow

BY Jason SchneiderPublished Feb 12, 2008

After years of constant touring, this Georgia institution finally seem to have earned an exalted position within the jam band hierarchy, after the Dead, the Allman Brothers and Phish. But as with those bands, Widespread Panic’s studio catalogue has always been hit-and-miss at best. Having always possessed a more hard rock edge than their peers, the band have fully given themselves over to that impulse on Free Somehow, as several tracks explode at stadium-rattling volume. This is contrasted by the more typical hippie funk associated with the band, exemplified by front-man John Bell’s unnerving resemblance to Stephen Stills in both voice and writing style. However, new lead guitarist Jimmy Herring is a nice addition to the sound, as his experience as a touring member of the Allmans adds some flair to songs like "Three Candles” and the title track. Yet, there’s still something sadly dated about everything Widespread Panic do, something that can’t be overcome no matter how popular they are among the Birkenstock set. Those who can still stomach listening to classic rock radio might find Free Somehow a revelation but in general, it’s as overblown as the band’s live reputation.

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