Want Some Jam With That? Widespread Panic, Gov’t Mule, The String Cheese Incident and other members of the Jam Nation

Widespread Panic
Uber Cobra
Widespread Records

A live acoustic-leaning donut from the same series of shows that birthed the recently released Night of Joy, Cobra reminds us why the Panic came on the radar in the first place. The first two tracks, a bubbling take on Neil Young’s “Walk On” and the band’s own “Wonderin’,” serve up the kind of infectious grooves that make for involuntary head-bobbing and Pavlovian torso swaying. Other gems here include a thoughtful pass through David Byrne’s “City of Dreams,” a lush pedal steel- inflected reading of Vic Chestnut’s “Expiration Day” and a crowd-pleasing version of Blind Faith classic “Can’t Find My Way Home.” New guitarist George McConnell shines throughout while old-hand John Bell flexes his vocals to winning results.

Warren Haynes
Live at Bonnaroo
ATO Records

One man, one voice, one amplified acoustic guitar and thousands of revelers in a field in Tennessee. Having played with several groups at the Bonnaroo 2003 festival, Haynes, now one of the busiest guys on the roots music scene, managed to break from the jam-pack and go solo for a 16-tune set. His acoustic foray, which opens with a version of Radiohead’s “Lucky,” also features a run through U2’s “One,” Don Henley’s “Wasted Time,” and a handful of originals, including a paean to the late Jerry Garcia, “Patchwork Quilt.” The sound is spare while Warren’s voice is simultaneously road-jaded and soulful. The Liner notes mention that he’d been carousing with Widespread Panic until the wee hours the night prior to the performance and thus was riding a coffee buzz for this “early” (12:30 p.m.) outing. These rockstars got it rough. Don’t miss “Soulshine,” with vocal assistance from South Africa’s Vusi Mahlasela. Not too shabby.

Gov’t Mule
Deja Voodoo
ATO Records

With all the right elements (solid songwriting, blistering guitar work, slow-churning grooves and an earnestly dark outlook), Haynes and company achieve lift-off on their latest effort, the first studio release by the recently reformed band following the loss of bassist Allen Woody. The much-ballyhooed group, which puts on engaging live performances, finds its center on Voodoo, a collection of tunes that take wing and fly. Haynes’ ’70s power rock-inspired spirit floats throughout and hints at excellence on cuts such as the eleven-minute “Silent Scream” or the hook-laden “Lola Leave Your Light On.” For those yearning for the brightness of past Haynes highlights there’s “Separate Reality,” an organ-driven cut that resonates with the kind of raw bluesy yearning and soulful wistfulness that keeps the 44-year-old roots rocker in the spotlight.

Keller Williams
Sci Fidelity Records

Keller Williams is best known as a one-man band, though he does get some assistance on Laugh from bassist Tye North (formerly of Leftover Salmon), drummer Dave Watts (of the Motet), Danny Knicely (mandolin) and a variety of other guests. Williams, who has gained recognition for his inventive live shows in which he uses looping technology to simulate the sound of a full jam band, explores the boundaries of songsmithing on a host of fetching tunes that evoke performers such as Phish, Medeski, Martin and Wood and solo guitar player Leo Kottke. From his soulful cover of Michael Hedges’ “Spring Buds” and an animated rendition of Ani DiFranco’s “Freakshow,” to his catchy originals, including “Freaker by the Speaker,” “Bob Rules,” “Old Lady from Carslbad,” and “Kidney in a Cooler,” Williams displays a knack for tunes that feel improvisational yet polished.

Mark Karan’s Buds
Live at The Sweetwater Saloon
June 25, 2004

Erstwhile Other One and current Ratdog, Mark Karan, continues to pursue varied grooves on the side, be it with his band Jemimah Puddleduck or the less formalized MK’s Buds. This particular outing, recorded at the storied Sweetwater Saloon in Mill Valley, Calif., sees Karan stretching out with the Buds, comprising former Albert King sideman Bob Gross (bass, vocals), Bruce Hornsby-ite JT Thomas (keys, organ) and former Kingfish drummer Jimmy Sanchez. The set, available at www.markkaran.com, showcases the various styles that Karan and his colleagues have mastered over the decades. The three-disc release features a well-balanced blend of blues, funk, jazz, reggae and gool ol’ rock and roll. From the spacey intro jam to the skroinky keywork of Tim Drummond and Ry Cooders “Hollywood” or the down-home brew of Lowell George’s “Dixie Chicken,” the music bears the unique stamp of musicians dedicated to serving up the tastiest roots-seasoned gumbo with a dash of psychedelia. “We basically just play tunes that we like,” says Karan. “And we try to avoid anything too obvious or stuff that’s been done to death.”

The Radiators

Long before the noodleocity of Phish there was Fish Head music. In the tradition of the Funky Meters, Little Feat, Allen Toussaint, Earl King, Professor Longhair, the Neville Brothers and numerous other talented veterans of the New Orleans scene, The Radiators first emerged from the bayou in 1978 to serve up a simmering jambalaya of N’awlins roots-inflected party grooves. Since then their swampy blend of blues, r&b, jazz, country, zydeco, swing, soul and even gospel-inflected fare (the band has more than 300 original tunes as well as a variety of well-chosen covers) has continued to carry the unmistakable flavor of the Crescent City while reeling in new generations of head-bobbing, liquid-imbibing, flin-flapping and maniacally devoted aquatic fans.

Mr. Blotto
Bad Hair Decade

While relatively unknown outside of the Windy City, the blokes from Mr. Blotto have been playing rootsy good-times music for quite some time now. This release (a follow up to the band’s 1994 Bad Hair Day) features more recently recorded live versions of a heap of longstanding originals by these venerable Chicago jamsters. Let it be noted that Blotto can play your favorite Phish, Widespread Panic, Dead, Traffic (et al.) covers with scads of soul and proficiency. But in addition to being able to rock the time-tested jukebox stuff the Blotto kitchen serves up its own tasty fare, and that’s precisely what’s on the Bad Hair Decade menu. From the groove-heavy shuffling of “Dirty Woman” to the almost radio-friendly and hooky “Kiss Me in the Morning,” the group evokes the gravelly vocal stylings of Widespread Panic, the bluesy southern guitar strains of the Allman Brothers, the clear as crystal licks of Captain Trips Garcia and mucho more, all the while bearing the unique stamp of pure clean Blotto. Add rollicking gospel-inflected numbers like “Rock Me In Your Arms” and “Standing in the House,” and you’ve got one hell of a well-rounded outfit more than capable of putting down the appropriate soundtrack for a fun night out.

This from the band:

“When you play a song a thousand times it can morph into a whole new thing. Sometimes the change is subtle, sometimes it can be dramatic. Here are live versions, in their original order, of Bad Hair Day with the three exceptions of Low Loretta, It Doesn’t Matter Anymore and Standing In The House which were completely re worked in the studio for your listening enjoyedgement(a word invented by former sound man Gary Jerkatowitz).”


Little Feat
Down Upon the Suwannee River
Hot Tomato Records


Little Feat is alive and well. Though minus the legendary Lowell George, the band still puts out a damned respectable sound that makes you want to get up and boogie. And the group appears to have borrowed a page from the younger jamband set: reaching for the stars during solo breaks and fusing as a gestalt ensemble at other times – with the musicians listening as one collective ear. This live 2-CD set recorded in Live Oaks, Florida in 2003 capturues the grit and funk that made the outfit a roots legend and features classic Feat ditties including “Spanish Moon,” “Sailin’ Shoes,” “Willin’,” “Dixie Chicken’,” “Oh Atlanta,”and a few recently minted tunes that also rock in the down-on-the-farm style.

Visit www.LittleFeat.com.

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