Bell - Vocals, Guitars
John "JoJo" Hermann - Keyboards, Vocals
Michael Houser - Guitars, Vocals
Todd Nance - Drums
Domingo S. Ortiz - Percussion
Dave Schools - Basses
The members of Widespread Panic are all eloquent musical storytellers, and nowhere is this more obvious than on their new album Don't Tell The Band. The sextet has earned a reputation for soaring, energetic live shows, and with Don't Tell The Band they capture that magic on record. Widespread Panic's versatile songwriting and first-rate musicianship enables them to flow from straight-ahead rock'n'roll to jazzy, melodic folk and a variety of other styles. The 12 songs on Don't Tell The Band range stylistically from the hard-rock swagger of "Give" and "Action Man" to the haunting piano ballad "This Part Of Town" and the lively "Don't Tell The Band."
Widespread Panic's seventh studio album and their first since 1999's 'Til The Medicine Takes, Don't Tell The Band was recorded at longtime producer John Keane's (R.E.M., Indigo Girls) studio in Athens, Georgia. Keane and the band enlisted engineer Doug Trantow (Tracy Chapman, Sugar Ray, Limp Bizkit) to help their music rock, glide and swing on record as much as it does at their legendary concerts. Saxman Randall Bramblett (Steve Winwood, Sea Level) came by to lend his talents to the cover of fIREHOSE's "Sometimes."
Part of the captivating appeal of Don't Tell The Band is Widespread Panic's songwriting methodology. The 11 new original songs on the album were mixed in with their older material on tour, allowing them to road-test and develop the new tunes in front of thousands of fans. "They've been refined, either intentionally or unintentionally, while we've played them live over the better part of a year," says singer-guitarist John Bell. "We'll take any inspiration wherever it's coming from. If something happens spontaneously on stage, we recapture it and challenge it to be a real song." The process allows all six members of Widespread Panic to find the perfect place within each song, and the resulting tightness and complex layering are the hallmark of the band's sound.
The imagery evoked in the album's title track ranges from doomed Confederate army bands playing as the bullets flew, to the tuxedoed string players on the Titanic who performed even as the ship sank. "Don't Tell The Band" is a celebration of the triumph of music in the face of great adversity, culminating in the last line of the song's chorus: "Just let the music play." Don't Tell The Band has many more vivid tales to tell. "Big Wooly Mammoth," warns of the peril in killing off endangered species. "Action Man" is a tribute to the famous early 20th century racehorse Man O'War. Keane plays pedal steel guitar on the soaring, ominous "This Part Of Town," which gives way to the arena-rock riffage of "Give."
Widespread Panic exhibits a harder edge in the music on Don't Tell The Band than on previous albums. "Give" is followed by the crashing crescendoes of "Imitation Leather Shoes." The cerebral grunge-funk of "Thought Sausage" is set to a pulsing rhythm with a flurry of dirty guitar tones, while "Action Man" has all the hoof-stomping velocity of its equine protagonist.
Still, the band's range is as broad as ever. The album's pulse-raising rockers are tempered by the swinging opener "Little Lilly," as well as the Latin melodies of "Casa Del Grillo" and the tender ballad "Old Joe." Bell's agile voice soars between brawny bravado and intimate murmurs to suit each song he sings, and at any time the show can be stolen by Michael Houser's gliding guitar leads, John "JoJo" Hermann's virtuoso keyboard solos or the driving rhythm section that forms the backbone of Widespread Panic's unmistakable sound.
Of course, such musical brilliance comes naturally to a band who first performed in 1985. The band formed at the University of Georgia as a trio made up of Bell, Houser and bassist Dave Schools, taking its name from Houser's then-nickname, "Panic." Drummer Todd Nance and percussionist Domingo "Sunny" Ortiz soon joined the fold, and the current lineup was completed in 1992 when Hermann came aboard. Since then, they have earned renown as one of America's best live bands, often appearing in Pollstar's "Concert Pulse" chart of the top 50 bands on the road.
As always, the six musicians that make up Widespread Panic are creating explosive, energetic music that bucks rock's flavor of the week and goes straight to the eager ears of their fans. With Don't Tell The Band, Widespread Panic have flexed their formidable musical muscle and made an album that casts aside any doubt that they are one of the best bands in rock 'n' roll.
For additional information on Widespread Panic,
please contact Dave Cirilli or Ambrosia Healy at Little Big Man Building, 646.336.8520, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com
Widespread Panic Discography: