Widespread Panic: Wood

Widespread Panic
(Widespread Records)
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Athens, Georgia roots jammers Widespread Panic unplugged for these performances, caught on the band’s early 2012, 11 date tour. Since that’s a pretty limited run, spreadheads should be thrilled to get a professionally recorded, beautifully mixed set of highlights from those predominately acoustic shows. This double disc delivers just under two hours of them, 20 tracks that include some fairly obscure Panic tunes and covers, a few of which are new to their repertoire.

The “wooden” format suits these songs well, and the members seem more energized than usual, even without electricity. Longtime favorites such as “Imitation Leather Shoes” adapt perfectly to this presentation. Versions of Jimmy Cliff’s “Many Rivers to Cross,” the Beatles’ “Ballad of John and Yoko” and particularly blues standards “Tail Dragger” and “Good Morning Little Schoolgirl” come alive with spirited renditions that are stand outs of this consistently enjoyable romp. The energy ratchets up a few notches when Col. Bruce Hampton, Southern Godfather of all things jam sings lead on a rollicking “Fixin’ to Die.” There is no shortage of officially released live Panic albums, not to mention dozens of bootlegs. But this is one of the most unique and satisfying because it captures the journeyman outfit in a stripped down yet invigorated setting and shows how they not only adapt to, but excel at, rearranging their songs for a more earthy sound.