There is more to a good jam band than jamming. The most noteworthy jam bands also pay a lot of attention to the art of songcraft; they realize that jamming isn't going to mean as much if they don't have worthwhile songs to use as the basis for their jamming. And Hot Buttered Rum's Live in the Northeast is a pleasing demonstration of how much one can benefit the other. There is plenty of inspired jamming on this 70-minute CD, which was recorded live in October 2006 at various venues in New England and Upstate New York. But the thing that makes the jamming and improvising work as well as it does is the fact Hot Buttered Rum hit the stage with a repertoire of well-crafted songs; even if a listener isn't a huge fan of improvisation and doesn't listen to jam bands extensively, he/she can still appreciate the craftsmanship that went into "California Snow and Rain," "Busted in Utah," and other material that the San Francisco Bay Area-based progressive bluegrass/country-rock outfit performs on Live in the Northeast. Of course, people who are heavily into jam bands tend to have a strong appreciation of improvisation -- and from a jamming/improvising standpoint, there is a lot to appreciate about Hot Buttered Rum's live performances. But the thing is that it is easier to deliver an inspired improvisation when you have a lot of memorable songs to inspire you. Live in the Northeast is an enjoyable document of Hot Buttered Rum on-stage in 2006.
AllMusic Review by Alex Henderson