The String Cheese Incident

Born on the Wrong Planet

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To those unfamiliar with the String Cheese Incident, this album may cause some confusion upon being placed in the disc player. Are they a progressive bluegrass band? A rhythm & blues band with a generous dose of funk? Or hippie wannabes harking back to the late '60s? The answer is all of the above. The String Cheese Incident, like their jam band peers Leftover Salmon or the Larry Keel Experience, refuse to stick to one style. The opening cut, "Black Clouds," is a progressive bluegrass stomper, the title cut is pop/rock, and "Land's End" is jazz-fusion with a lovely guitar solo. Perhaps "Land's End," along with the bluegrass instrumental "The Remington Ride," provide a clue to the central focus of the String Cheese Incident. Jamming. They do like to sing and perform in a variety of styles, but they're also great musicians who love to jam. Mandolinist Michael Kang, bassist Keith Moseley, guitarist Bill Nershi, and percussionist Michael Travis seldom find themselves performing a song/instrumental under four minutes. Although an eight-minute funky cut like "Texas" doesn't quite reach the level of their concert jams, it does show that the band likes to leave time for noodling. The listener will also note the band's left-of-center sense of humor on songs like "Johnny Cash" with the reframe "Johnny Cash, Johnny Cash, Johnny Cash don't smoke hash." While some people may find this lyric a little too cute, they'll probably change their minds once they find themselves singing along. Like many jam bands, even a good studio recording -- which Born on the Wrong Planet is -- pales next to their live shows. Still, for an interested listener who isn't ready for the two-disc Carnival '99 with its ten- and 15-minute jams, Born on the Wrong Planet should build your appetite for more of the String Cheese Incident.

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