Widespread Panic Gets Free Somehow

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They’ve broken free of their past, free of their own expectations, free of themselves. The pieces have fallen into place and Widespread Panic is free somehow.

Try as I might, I’ve never really been able to become a big fan of Widespread Panic. I understand the appeal of the style of jamband that they embody — straight-ahead Southern blues rock with room for improvisation — but that appeal never seemed to be something I could grasp on to. I usually land on the electronica based stylings that the Disco Biscuits and STS9 have been leading the charge on for the past few years, as plenty evidenced from our past posts (and the interests of our other team members like Andrew and Whitperson).

Regardless of our tastes, these guys deserve all the coverage they can get on LMB. It’s not like they really need it. These guys have been carrying a flock of hippies with them ever since the demise of the other two majors that carried the scene before them. They never followed in the shadows. They forged their own scene and helped build Bonnaroo to the festival that it is today. And their scene is still kicking after all the recent turmoil that the band had to experience. They’ve got dates booked this Spring and plan to follow those appearances with headlining slots at Rothbury Fest and All Good 2008 (with a slot booked at Jazz Fest, too). They’ve also got a new album out called Free Somehow, which features the track below as the intro to the release:

This being the first release with Jimmy Herring, I’m curious as to what the WSP fans think of this. Is this the classic, “jambands still suck in the studio” disc or is this (traveling) light years ahead of what other bands are doing in the genre? Should they just stick to headlining festivals or what? Anyone hitting any dates on the upcoming tour? Let us know, ya’ll — and read on for the tour dates.

Widespread Panic | Spring 2008 Tour Dates

4/1
Warner Theatre
Washington, DC

4/4 – 4/5
United Palace
New York, NY

4/6
Palace Theatre
Albany, NY

4/9
US Bank Arena
Cincinnati, OH

4/11 – 4/13
Auditorium Theatre
Chicago, IL

4/15
SIU Arena
Carbondale, IL

4/16
Murphy Center
Murfreesboro, TN

4/18 – 4/20
The Amphitheater @ The Wharf
Orange Beach, AL

4/22 – 4/23
Johnny Mercer Theatre
Savannah, GA

4/25 – 4/26
Walnut Creek Amphitheatre
Raleigh, NC

4/27
Landmark Theatre
Richmond, VA

4/29
Township Auditorium
Columbia, SC

5/1
New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival
New Orleans, LA

5/2
Showgrounds @ Sam Houston
Houston, TX

5/3
Nokia Theatre
Dallas, TX

  • Dave Sullivan

    These guys are absolutely incredible! I was lucky to catch both Milwaukee shows @ the Riverside in the fall and was just blown away. The first time i saw WSP was at bonaroo 2005 and was instantly hooked, but with Jimmy Herring playing with them now they are just out of this world! I can’t wait to see them this summer @ ROTHBURY!!! I like this album, but I would have to say i enjoyed Earth to America more!

  • Dave Sullivan

    These guys are absolutely incredible! I was lucky to catch both Milwaukee shows @ the Riverside in the fall and was just blown away. The first time i saw WSP was at bonaroo 2005 and was instantly hooked, but with Jimmy Herring playing with them now they are just out of this world! I can’t wait to see them this summer @ ROTHBURY!!! I like this album, but I would have to say i enjoyed Earth to America more!

  • Rev. Joseph Mattews

    Justin, your article is the same, cliche trash that every other critic has already written. Clearly your only experience or information about WSP comes from google. May be you should write about things you know. Music is a subject you do not understand…. Peace.

  • http://www.livemusicblog.com Justin

    Rev: clearly the point of my article was to solicit the opinion of the fans that know a bit more about WSP than I do, which of course, I gather you didn’t quite grasp from reading the blog post.

    So Dave is a fan and sounds a little biased — any seasoned vets in the room care to share their thoughts?

  • http://www.livemusicblog.com Justin

    Rev: clearly the point of my article was to solicit the opinion of the fans that know a bit more about WSP than I do, which of course, I gather you didn’t quite grasp from reading the blog post.

    So Dave is a fan and sounds a little biased — any seasoned vets in the room care to share their thoughts?

  • Larry Williams

    I think the Rev. is being a little harsh, particularly given the fact that Justin was pretty profuse in his praise while fully disclosing he’s not a huge fan.

    Having been a die-hard follower the past 15 years, I’m not sure what to make of the new album. Jimmy Herring is a superb guitarist, but I think the jury is still very much out as to exactly how he fits into the band’s sound.

    This album is a huge departure from their previous studio work, in my eyes. Very mature and polished, but I’m not sure how much soul and inspiration went into the songwriting. Tentative with few hooks. Still, there are some few really good numbers: “Up all Night,” “Angels on High,” and “Tickle the Truth” are excellent songs.

    This is no slam on Jimmy whatsoever, but I believe Mikey Houser’s greatness becomes more apparent as time passes. He was a master of nuance and distinctive songwriting. I don’t think Panic will ever be as great or as tight without him as they were with him — both live and in studio.

    That said, I’m thankful they’re still playing and I’ll always support them no matter what. Their live stuff can be very loose, with Jimmy missing changes and whatnot. And it’ll take a long time for him (or anyone, for that matter) to master the subtleties and the texture that made Mikey great.

    But it’s still great music and a great time.

  • Larry Williams

    I think the Rev. is being a little harsh, particularly given the fact that Justin was pretty profuse in his praise while fully disclosing he’s not a huge fan.

    Having been a die-hard follower the past 15 years, I’m not sure what to make of the new album. Jimmy Herring is a superb guitarist, but I think the jury is still very much out as to exactly how he fits into the band’s sound.

    This album is a huge departure from their previous studio work, in my eyes. Very mature and polished, but I’m not sure how much soul and inspiration went into the songwriting. Tentative with few hooks. Still, there are some few really good numbers: “Up all Night,” “Angels on High,” and “Tickle the Truth” are excellent songs.

    This is no slam on Jimmy whatsoever, but I believe Mikey Houser’s greatness becomes more apparent as time passes. He was a master of nuance and distinctive songwriting. I don’t think Panic will ever be as great or as tight without him as they were with him — both live and in studio.

    That said, I’m thankful they’re still playing and I’ll always support them no matter what. Their live stuff can be very loose, with Jimmy missing changes and whatnot. And it’ll take a long time for him (or anyone, for that matter) to master the subtleties and the texture that made Mikey great.

    But it’s still great music and a great time.

  • Tanner Duncan

    Great post Larry.

    As far as live shows go, I think Jimmy is great on the songs he’s been a part of bringing to the band. He knows them. He shreds them. Developing the feel and touch they had back in the late 90’s up through 07/02/02, will take just as long for them develop with Jimmy.

    They have always had quality songs. JB’s lyrics have always delivered for me, and many others. I haven’t listened to this album enough, but I’m sure there are some gems on it. There always is.

    Panic is in their own time and place. I’m just glad they are still touring and writing music. They’ve inspired me in many ways, for a long time. I trust them. They’ve allowed taping. I can always go visit different moments in their history, and for that I’m grateful.

  • Tanner Duncan

    Great post Larry.

    As far as live shows go, I think Jimmy is great on the songs he’s been a part of bringing to the band. He knows them. He shreds them. Developing the feel and touch they had back in the late 90’s up through 07/02/02, will take just as long for them develop with Jimmy.

    They have always had quality songs. JB’s lyrics have always delivered for me, and many others. I haven’t listened to this album enough, but I’m sure there are some gems on it. There always is.

    Panic is in their own time and place. I’m just glad they are still touring and writing music. They’ve inspired me in many ways, for a long time. I trust them. They’ve allowed taping. I can always go visit different moments in their history, and for that I’m grateful.

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/oliversarmy/ Paul

    Rev, that was pretty harsh and unfounded.

    I’ve been seeing Panic since ’92 [HORDE Tour, with Phish, Blues Traveler, Spin Doctors and ARU. Now that was a day, but I digress.].

    I don’t know of another band that has dealt with as serious a blow as they have and yet continued to grow and challenge themselves.

    As the years rolled on, I became a bigger and bigger fan. They’re shows have a fantastic flow to them, and as has been noted already, the song writing of Michael Houser has stood the test of time well.

    I’ll be a heretic and say that I enjoyed the George period quite a bit. One of his tunes, Doreatha, is one of my all-time favorite songs to hear Panic do. That said, I do think that Jimmy has the potential to take them to the next level.

    I’m looking forward to two nights of Panic in NYC in April.

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/oliversarmy/ Paul

    Rev, that was pretty harsh and unfounded.

    I’ve been seeing Panic since ’92 [HORDE Tour, with Phish, Blues Traveler, Spin Doctors and ARU. Now that was a day, but I digress.].

    I don’t know of another band that has dealt with as serious a blow as they have and yet continued to grow and challenge themselves.

    As the years rolled on, I became a bigger and bigger fan. They’re shows have a fantastic flow to them, and as has been noted already, the song writing of Michael Houser has stood the test of time well.

    I’ll be a heretic and say that I enjoyed the George period quite a bit. One of his tunes, Doreatha, is one of my all-time favorite songs to hear Panic do. That said, I do think that Jimmy has the potential to take them to the next level.

    I’m looking forward to two nights of Panic in NYC in April.

  • Rev. Joseph Mattews

    Sorry Justin, perhaps I was too harsh. I have been in the seen a long time and this CD has been reviewed by many critics who know nothing of this band, and it all sounds the same, (just stuff they read on the bands web site). I was hoping someone would comment who understands the music not just reads about. I was having bad day yesterday. I’ll keep reading,
    Peace

  • Rev. Joseph Mattews

    Sorry Justin, perhaps I was too harsh. I have been in the seen a long time and this CD has been reviewed by many critics who know nothing of this band, and it all sounds the same, (just stuff they read on the bands web site). I was hoping someone would comment who understands the music not just reads about. I was having bad day yesterday. I’ll keep reading,
    Peace

  • Dave Daniel

    I thought this was a nice article, especially since I pretty much expect most music critics to sling mud this time around. Free Somehow is not a cozy little cave for Panic fans to nestle into and remember the old days. Which is why at first glance I was skipping tracks saying “where is my Panic?” I always skip through the tracks pretty quickly on the first spin, the anticipation of hearing the next track compels me to do it.

    But after giving this album several more thoughtful listens, I realized that I like what I didn’t expect to like, and not so much what I expected to like. Boom Boom Boom, the opening track, continues to thrive in my mind, and is the song I’m most excited to hear live, along with Walk on the Flood and Three Candles.

    The album is true to itself and true to the feelings of present. If 2008 says we rock it, then we rock it. Nothing has ever been forced with Panic, and that is their greatest attribute.

    Thanks for the thoughtful article.

  • Dave Daniel

    I thought this was a nice article, especially since I pretty much expect most music critics to sling mud this time around. Free Somehow is not a cozy little cave for Panic fans to nestle into and remember the old days. Which is why at first glance I was skipping tracks saying “where is my Panic?” I always skip through the tracks pretty quickly on the first spin, the anticipation of hearing the next track compels me to do it.

    But after giving this album several more thoughtful listens, I realized that I like what I didn’t expect to like, and not so much what I expected to like. Boom Boom Boom, the opening track, continues to thrive in my mind, and is the song I’m most excited to hear live, along with Walk on the Flood and Three Candles.

    The album is true to itself and true to the feelings of present. If 2008 says we rock it, then we rock it. Nothing has ever been forced with Panic, and that is their greatest attribute.

    Thanks for the thoughtful article.

  • stems

    Umm … how to put this? ….Panic sucks. Didn’t even have to Google it.

    Ah, just giving ya’ll a hard time, but honestly the success of this band baffles me. Is there something about living in the South that makes two-guitar blues rock sound innovative? I just don’t hear it. Living in Wisconsin I don’t have to confront Spreadnecks too much, but I distinctly my first time traveling to southern festivals — Bonnaroo and Langerado — and being absolutely confounded by the incredible appeal of this band. I’ve still seen Widespread Panic about five times — just not sure why.

  • stems

    Umm … how to put this? ….Panic sucks. Didn’t even have to Google it.

    Ah, just giving ya’ll a hard time, but honestly the success of this band baffles me. Is there something about living in the South that makes two-guitar blues rock sound innovative? I just don’t hear it. Living in Wisconsin I don’t have to confront Spreadnecks too much, but I distinctly my first time traveling to southern festivals — Bonnaroo and Langerado — and being absolutely confounded by the incredible appeal of this band. I’ve still seen Widespread Panic about five times — just not sure why.

  • L. Williams

    Are you asking why you don’t like Panic? Only you can figure that out.

    So you’re not a fan. Cool. Life goes on.

  • L. Williams

    Are you asking why you don’t like Panic? Only you can figure that out.

    So you’re not a fan. Cool. Life goes on.

  • Rod

    Free Somehow is appealing to a younger audience. I am a senior in high school and ive been to 14 shows. i’d consider myself a fan of the band. As someone who wasnt fortunate enough to see mikey play live, although i love his style and music and respect him so much for everything he did for panic, i would have to say. i’m pretty comfortable with jimmy. Jimmy has a harder, faster style that may be what panic needed to change things up.
    This is just a new era of this band. Time goes on and so has the music. Its evolved into a slightly different sound but i think that’s o.k. Panic will always thrive live. everyone knows that. We just need to sit back watch, and listen.