Some great new music out this spring/summer so far...the new Widespread Panic disc "Dirty Side Down" is their best album since 1999's "Til The Medicine Takes". I'm grown used to their inconsistency on studio albums, and have looked forward to each release for 1 or 2 songs that would be as good as some of their earlier material. "Don't Tell The Band" (their 2001 disc) had "Little Lilly" and "This Part of Town", the post-Hauser disc, 2003's awful "Ball" at least had "Fishing", 2006's "Earth to America" had "Time Zones" and "Second Skin", and 2008's incredibly mediocre "Free Somehow" had......well, I guess "Up All Night" is a good song. But the new disc incorporates all the positive aspects of what the band has become...Jimmy Herring will never replicate the sound Michael Houser brought, but he's an incredibly talented guitarist, and has finally blended in with this band. The opening song "Saint Ex" is excellent...it opens with moody guitars and organ and a pseudo-Latin feel. The difference is in the songwriting...these songs aren't just a few mediocre riffs strung together...the songs are relatively complex, and they've got some really strong grooves on this disc. "Cotton Was King" is an amazing rave-up in the style of "Time Zones", and "North", a Vic Chestnutt tune, has some great lead guitar and builds nicely. There are of course some weak tracks here (wouldn't be a Panic disc without em), but when I can count more than 4 strong songs on a new WSP disc it means I'll have some good listening this summer.
I just read that Donavon Frankenreiter has just released a disc ("Revisited") that consists of some of his early material re-recorded to reflect his love of Hawaii. I listened to some snippets of a few songs and it sounds awful. It's like he put the songs thru some Don Ho machine to give it Hawaiian guitar flavor and mellow the songs out even more...and these songs were already really mellow. From what I heard there's no percussion, it sounds like Hawaiian elevator music. The songs are narcoleptic now. Why he did this is beyond me, he must be bored.
On a better note, the new Tom Petty album "Mojo" is excellent, and now probably my favorite disc of his. He was always a bit too poppy for my taste but I've always respected his music. (His 4 disc live compilation is great). The new songs on "Mojo" are great, and he follows his blues-inspired Grateful Dead/Allmans muse here. The songs sound like they pick up right where Mudcrutch left off...easy bluesy/folky songs but this time with Mike Campbell's guitar taking front and center. There are some excellent songs here, my favorites are "First Flash of Freedom" and "The Trip To Pirates Cove", but the disc is very consistent. They veer from Led Zep to the Dead, and the songs are anything but pop.
I've got to write about Mountain Jam as well...great music again this year and a smoking Gov't Mule show....next time.