Ain't Life Grand
First Appeared in The Music Box, December 1994, Volume 1, #6
Written by John Metzger
Back in September, Widespread Panic issued Ain't Life Grand, its 4th release in six years. While all its albums have been very good, this one returns the band to the fresh sound of its first outing Space Wrangler. Rather than re-treading the same old ground, the band has successfully made slight alterations to its sound, allowing the influence of Jefferson Airplane to surface. This is most noticeable on the country-style title cut as well as the love-lost tune Can't Get High. In addition, the ensemble has managed to take things another step further, and it really mixes up the song styles this time around. Raise the Roof is in a similar vein as Pickin' Up The Pieces, although it's even prettier and contains one hell of an acoustic guitar solo. Junior tosses around the sound of Bruce Springsteen, and Blackout Blues mixes in a little bit of New Orleans á la Little Feat.
Widespread Panic has been playing a number of these songs for quite awhile, which has allowed the group to iron out the kinks prior to entering the recording studio. While this style of recording has not always worked, the band manages to retain the raw power of tunes like Little Kin, Heroes, and Fishwater. Widespread Panic even manages to squeeze a radio-friendly hit onto Ain't Life Grand. Sadly, however, Airplane is a little too catchy. At only four minutes long, it wears out its welcome quite quickly, and it's getting way too much radio play, which has only expedited the lowering of its entertainment value. Not that Widespread Panic doesn't deserve the popularity. After all, it's one of the best collectives touring today, but c'mon DJs, let's stir things up; there are a lot of other good tunes on this disc! ½
Ain't Life Grand is 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 © 1994 The Music Box