Bombs & Butterflies
First Appeared in The Music Box, April 1998, Volume 5, #4
Written by John Metzger
In retrospect, Ain't Life Grand, Widespread Panic's 1994 release, appears to be a transitional album. On its latest disc, the band has emerged from its cocoon with an outstanding effort that takes the best parts of Space Wrangler and Everyday and mixes them generously with some of the new and different twists that the group scattered throughout Ain't Life Grand. The result is an outing that should increase Widespread Panic's fan base and move it more into the mainstream.
The underlying drum and percussion work provided by Todd Nance and Domingo Ortiz continues to propel Widespread Panic's music and fill it with energy. Michael Houser tacks on his Southern blues guitar style to many of the songs, most notably Aunt Avis and Gradle. Of course, vocalist John Bell continues to take the lead in carrying the songs with his articulate and passionate oral excursions. His voice glides effortlessly from note to note and seems to lead the rest of the group from place to place. Every time he lets his voice soar, the intensity increases and just as it tails off, the band seems to float into the fray and carry the song further. Gradle is tender and sweet as Bell's voice mixes blissfully with John Hermann's keyboards and Houser's guitar. Happy is an all-out instrumental jam, and its title describes the song perfectly. Of course Pops Staples' Hope in a Hopeless World, the first single from this disc, may be Widespread Panic's best take on a cover song, and it alone is worth the price of admission.
Bombs & Butterflies is also available from Barnes & Noble.
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 1998 The Music Box