Widespread Panic at Fillmore Miami Beach
Renowned as a great live band and among the leading lights of the jam-band circuit over the past quarter-century, Athens, Georgia's Widespread Panic concentrates on old-fashioned song-craft for its new album, Dirty Side Down — all the better as a solid launching pad for WP's free-flowing live escapades. There is, of course, evidence of Panic's improvisational prowess on Dirty, most prominently on the instrumental "St. Louis," a tighter version of a concert staple that still rambles deep into jazz and blues terrain via Jerry Garcia-like guitar work. That the rest of the tracks work nicely as songs is a tribute to WP's dual strengths as well as its eclecticism. Over the course of the hour-plus album, the mood shifts from the haunting, plaintive cover of the late Vic Chesnutt's "This Cruel Thing" to exuberant boogie-fueled Southern rockers such as "Cotton Was King." Elsewhere, there's an amiable country rocker ("Clinic Cynic"), muscular blues-rock ("North"), a New Orleans-style shuffle ("When You Coming Home"), and an ambitious, mercurial tribute to Le Petit Prince author Antoine de Saint-Exupéry that wends its way from gossamer surrealism to gritty rock with an undercurrent of Latin rhythms, just the stuff for a prime Panic attack.
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