Night of Joy

Widespread Panic

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Night of Joy Review

by Thom Jurek

Recorded live at the House of Blues in South Carolina, this Widespread Panic date featured the addition of the Dirty Dozen Brass Band playing alongside them. It makes for an entirely different 'spread show to be sure. While the insanely long sprawling jams are all but absent here -- only on the final cut, "Rebirtha," do we get anything over 15 minutes, everything else is ten or under -- in place of that are tight, raucous, funky, gritty rock & roll tunes that traverse the worlds of R&B, Latin, and jazz, along with hard-spun, gritty Southern rock. From the opening sequences in "Thought Sausage," the multi-valent percussion drives the band down into itself to concentrate on the tighter grooves rather than the more spacious ones. The New Orleans backbeat in the band's cover of "Use Me," by Bill Withers moves the tune into a whole other sphere. The Dozens punch up the bassline and strut it out more. The only drawback is that John Bell seems unsure of how to deliver the lyric with this new wash of sound behind him. Likewise, "Bayou Lena," feels a bit stilted -- while the horns are free and easy and add a ton of life to the tune's atmosphere, the Panics seem unwilling to pull out all the stops. But these are minor complaints. Tracks like "Bust It Big," and "Old Neighborhood," and the wailing trance-out soul grit in "Arleen" more than make up for it. And of course the diehards get the acid groove beauty of "Rebirtha" to tide them over until the next multi-disc live set comes along. This is an experiment to be sure, but one that works well for the most part.

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