Widespread Panic Uber Cobra

Widespread Panic, the venerable kings of the improvisational jam band community south of the Mason-Dixon Line, have embarked upon the popular trend of releasing varying live albums during time taken off the road. First off the presses is Uber Cobra, an all acoustic album recorded during their first full tour without founding guitarist Michael Houser, who succumbed to pancreatic cancer in 2002. Opening up with Neil Young’s emotive "Walk On,” Panic clearly and quickly make a strong statement with Uber Cobra, declaring that respect of the past while optimistically pointing towards the future can occur simultaneously, as the rest of the 13 tracks just solidify the aforementioned theme. The live acoustic record is constantly dominated by the Southern raspy trademark wailing of lead singer John Bell, as well as the sombre emotion that peers through him and his band mates during every note on the record. Originals "Wonderin’,” "Walkin’,” and "Papa Johnny Road” showcase the band’s instrumental prowess, proving that even under acoustic settings, these guys can still rip it up with the catchy Southern vibe that has carried them throughout 18 years of music making. The lyrics of "Walkin’,” arguably the centrepiece of the live set, truly sum up the cloud of respect hovering around the loss of Houser, stating that "Now that you’re gone, I’m sober every night.” To pay homage to their departed friend, Widespread Panic needed to release Uber Cobra, and as a fan, I am grateful they did. Somewhere, strumming above Georgia, Michael Houser is smiling. (Sanctuary)