FILE UNDER: Jam fan dream.
CORPORATE LINE: Widespread Panic, the wildly popular standard bearers of rootsy American rock, are readying for the release of their audacious new album Earth To America (June 13, Sanctuary/ Widespread Records). Their 9th studio CD, Earth To America captures the band at a new creative peak in collaboration with producer Terry Manning, the first time they’ve worked with the famed studio master whose credits stretch back to Stax days.
Beginning with the eerie, ambitious 11-minute plus epic “Second Skin,” (a staple of their live shows), the album twists and turns through 10 tracks of time-honed classic rock. Other standout tracks include the boisterous barroom rocker “Goodpeople” and the toe-tapping, blues tinged “Time Zones”. Extended workouts like “You Should Be Glad” give the band a chance to show off their chops, while the tender closing benediction “May Your Glass Be Filled” highlights the band’s delicate touch on a down tempo ballad. Also noteworthy is the band’s hard charging cover of Bob Dylan’s “Solid Rock” from 1980’s ‘Saved’.
“Second Skin” – An eleven minute song is a lot to handle in a world that wants everything in four minutes or less. Thankfully this song isn’t made for those people.
“From The Cradle” – The guitar riff is amazing. It starts off and gathers so much momentum that you are surprised that three minutes into the song that you are just starting to bob your head.
“May Your Glass Be Filled” – Earth To America ends on a high note. This is the best song on the entire album.
“Goodpeople” – After the euphoria of “Second Skin,” “Goodpeople” comes like an alien ship to wreak havoc. It feels completely out of place.
“Solid Rock” – This Dylan cover doesn’t do much for me.
“When The Clowns Come Home” – This was too close to sounding like a band ‘80s hair band style song.
FRANKLY: I’m not into jam bands. As a matter of fact, I didn’t even want to review this CD—it was forced upon me because everyone else passed. The “Second Skin” surprised me and hooked me immediately on Widespread Panic. Reviewing is supposed to be objective—but sometimes its just about finding something enjoyable and sitting back and saying “this is a really nice surprise.”
+ Charlie Craine