Earlier this year, southern jam rockers Widespread Panic embarked on a four city, 11 date tour that relied on acoustic performances of originals and a nice array of covers that took the band a step away from their arena-rocking sound towards subdued but fantastically creative performances. The product of this tour is Wood, which includes a wide array of selections from the Washington D.C., Denver, Aspen and Atlanta shows from January and February this year. The band gave fans a unique experience before taking off the rest of 2012 to relax and refresh.
The full band’s acoustic sound is spectacularly mixed by John Keane at John Keane Studios and mastered by Ken Love at MasterMix, giving each song a crisp sound that allows the listener to hear the subtle instrumentation applied to songs like “St. Louis” and “Good Morning Little School Girl”. The tracklisting features a broad selection of Panic songs from over the years, as well as new covers that hopefully will make an appearance in regular rotation when they return to the road in 2013. The album plays like a regular live, acoustic show with two disks for two sets, or 1 long one depending on how you look at it.
“The Ballad of John and Yoko”, one of the many covers debuted this tour, breaks the ice on this acoustic album; an acoustic album is far from a way to say ‘quieter music’ – this is a full and at times, a heavy album, thanks to great sound and recording. Straight up rocker “Imitation Leather Shoes” has a different sound in this format, and fans of Panic will find this tune a unique twist on the original. A swing version of “Tall Boy” makes this gospel-friendly song a Dixieland tune while “Many Rivers to Cross” is soft and soulful, with JB singing the Jimmy Cliff tune perfectly.
Dave Schools’ bass resonates in the softest thumping manner on “St. Louis”, Alan Price’s “Sell Sell” is a unique song from the British film O’ Lucky Man and Howlin Wolf’s “Tail Dragger”, a nasty blues number that is perfect for Widespread Panic in this format. “Tickle the Truth” is gritty and nasty and it seems that acoustic is a preferable way to perform the song. “Fixin’ to Die” features Col. Bruce Hampton on vocals in a traditional Panic sit-in on the upbeat number.
“C. Brown”, the story of a boy and his dog, is softer than live versions and has percussion that sounds like Sonny Ortiz playing a small child’s xylophone. “Blight”, the Vic Chesnutt classic is as dark as ever without amplification while Bloodkin’s “End of the Show” gives John Bell’s mandolin a go through impassioned vocals, a perfect ending to this album.
Not since the Sit n Ski tour of 1996 were audiences treated to intimate shows like these. Pick this one up and enjoy some classic Panic.
Key Tracks: Ballad of John and Yoko, Tall Boy, St. Louis, Tickle the Truth, C. Brown, End of the Show
Pick up the album at Widespreadpanic.com