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Co-Balt Review

by Matt Fink

On his second collaboration with jam rockers Widespread Panic, Vic Chesnutt holds his cohorts' improvisational propensities in check just as they seem to force him to rein in some of his tendencies toward overly esoteric verbiage (although he is still in fine lyrical form). Still, that fact alone almost suggests that neither are truly in their element, which comes through in the rather hit-or-miss quality of the collaboration. Moments characteristic of the best work of both occasionally do arise, with the soaring choruses of "You Got It All Wrong" and positively anthemic piano groove of "Adirondacks" making both tracks capable of becoming Americana radio hits should they be given the necessary push. Chesnutt is truly in his top storytelling form at other moments, with narratives like the optimistically bleak "Expiration Day" and the breezy sensual love story in the title track. Unfortunately, the majority of the tracks are substantially less inspired, with rather redundant bluesy workouts ("Morally Challenged") and rather meandering guitar-heavy grooves dominating the disappointing last half of the record. All in all, Co-Balt has its moments, but ultimately presents neither Chesnutt nor Widespread Panic at the height of their abilities.

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