'Til the Medicine Takes
First Appeared at The Music Box, January 2000, Volume 7, #1
Written by John Metzger
With each album that it has released, Widespread Panic has strayed a little bit further from the straightforward blend of blues and Southern rock, reminiscent of the Allman Brothers Band. Though Widespread Panic is a group that seems to be in a constant state of evolution, it does manage to guide its fans along, taking them by the hand and leading them across the musical bridges between its earlier and more recent sonic experiments. 'Til the Medicine Takes continues this process, by combining the best elements of the band's prior releases with some new and different ideas and directions. The growing complexity of arrangements, at first, might make these songs appear to be a tad bit difficult to reproduce in a live setting. Yet, that's the beauty of it. Widespread Panic has made an album that gives the listener plenty to discover. However, when the aural decorations are cut away, what remains are stellar lyrics and memorable melodies that can effortlessly open into transcendental musical expeditions. In other words, these are exactly the kind of songs that jam bands should be creating; the kind of songs that make for tremendous concert experiences; and the kind of songs that capture the essence of the Grateful Dead without the pale-imitation mimicry.
There are far too many highlights on 'Til the Medicine Takes to mention. Its 55 minutes of music float by at the speed of light, and its lifeblood inevitably will seep deep into one's soul, infecting it with a deep-seated tribal spirituality. Wicked guitar and organ riffs drift over percolating rhythms, which in turn are punctuated by frenetic bass runs. The driving beat and maelstrom of sound on Surprise Valley gives way to a beautiful acoustic-fed coda before the band dives headfirst into the slipstream of Bear's Gone Fishin'. In addition, Blue Indian conjures up the shamanistic image of Jim Morrison, while the band reincarnates Gram Parsons with near precision on You'll Be Fine.
There's no question that 'Til the Medicine Takes is Widespread Panic's best album to date. It's one of those albums that grows stronger with each passing day, and every time it is played the songs become just a little bit more addictive. Further still, the band's willingness to remain versatile, while shunning any notion of becoming formulaic, will only leave fans eagerly anticipating the next dish in the banquet of releases that Widespread Panic seems destined to serve.
'Til the Medicine Takes 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 © 1999 The Music Box