Album Review

Widespread Panic, 'Dirty Side Down'

May 24, 2010

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Word from the Widespread Panic camp is that the band feels this is its best album in a decade — and it’s hard to disagree. The key is the integration of lead guitarist Jimmy Herring, a journeyman who has played with the Dead, the Allmans, and Phil Lesh and Friends, but now is an official member of the group. He’s magnetic throughout, from the Zeppelin-style riffs in “Saint Ex’’ (the song was inspired by “The Little Prince’’ author Antoine de Saint-Exupéry) to the graceful, Jerry Garcia-like feel of “St. Louis’’ and the Little Feat-ish funk of “Visiting Day.’’ Although known for its hippie jams in concert, Widespread has recorded a stellar batch of songs in the Athens, Ga., studio of John Keane, who varies the mood by adding some of his own pedal-steel guitar interludes, evoking the Flying Burrito Brothers on “Clinic Cynic.’’ Overall, the group’s singing is mixed too low (vocals are not its strong suit anyway), but the music is consistently strong. A cover of a previously unreleased ballad, “This Cruel Thing’’ (from a longtime friend, the late Vic Chesnutt), also makes an impact. (Out tomorrow)


ESSENTIAL “Clinic Cynic’’

Widespread Panic performs at the Bank of America Pavilion on July 24.