Round the Wheel doesn't necessarily surpass the String Cheese Incident's first studio album, Born on the Wrong Planet, but it certainly achieves a fuller sound. The addition of Christian Teal on Brazilian percussion and Paul McCandless on soprano saxophone, especially on songs like "Come As You Are," create a sound full of complex rhythms and rich tones. Piano/organ player Kyle Hollingsworth, mandolinist/violinist Michael Kang, bassist Keith Moseley, guitarist Bill Nershi, and percussionist Michael Travis have thickened their already multifaceted musical stew. The group had produced good songs on their previous studio album -- Born on the Wrong Planet -- but many cuts like "Jellyfish" seemed only destined to reach their potential when performed live. Here, producer Jon O'Leary, along with the band, has created a studio album that can stand on its own. Many of the band's trademarks, nonetheless, remain, particularly their penchant for long songs/instrumentals that allow time for long jams. Both "Galactic" -- seven minutes -- and "MLT" -- six -- allow room for the band to stretch things out. "MLT" explores the same territory as "Come As You Are," with great guitar work by Nershi and a jazzy piano solo by Hollingsworth. A heavy dose of rhythm on "Got What He Wanted" harks back to the early '70s pop/rock, conjuring up images of Loggins and Messina at their funkiest. Tony Furtado sits in on banjo for a couple of progressive bluegrass cuts on "Restless Wind" and "Good Times Around the Bend." The group sings great bluegrass harmony and enjoys adding unusual instruments to the mix to shake things up (such as an accordion on the later cut). The only small complaint about this album is that on certain cuts, like the instrumental "Road Home," the soprano saxophone "softens" the overall sound, steering the band closer to smooth jazz. This aside, Round the Wheel is a good album. The band should be commended for attempting to push beyond the stereotype of the jam band that falls flat in the studio.
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AllMusic Review by Ronnie D. Lankford, Jr.