Album Notes - Widespread Panic - 'Til the Medicine Takes

Dispatches from the Highlands

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As July comes to an end, I have to say that musically, the last couple of months have been solid but not unbelievable. Lots of stuff I've enjoyed, but little that really blew me away. Now just around the corner comes August, and a number of upcoming releases from favorites new and old slated for the second half of the month have me pumped for music's foreseeable future. But for now, we're turning back the clock...

20th Anniversary Edition

The words "jamband," "studio album," and "quality" rarely frequent the same sentence, unless the last is in reference to the drugs the band members were indulging in during the recording process. Yet 20 years ago, one group populating this much maligned (and often deservedly so) genre managed the nearly impossible feat of laying something down in the studio that stands on its own legs, a worthy companion to the live shows for which they're known. On July 27, 1999, Widespread Panic released 'Til the Medicine Takes, quite simply one of the best studio albums a jamband has ever made.

Out of Athens, Georgia, the road warriors have been together since 1986. Some songs in their concert rotation today date back five years earlier, when co-founders John Bell and the now deceased Michael Houser began living and writing together. Since the mid-90s, they have been a major player in the scene, and despite some lineup changes, keep on chugging today. Widespread mutherfuckin Panic, as they are eloquently known to all, have maintained a loyal legion of touring Spreadheads traversing the country, making them the undisputed king of southern jambands.

Personally I never got into the group too much, outside of seeing a show or two, but this, their sixth studio release, always stuck with me. The well-written songs, another rarity in the genre, require no stretching out or jams tacked on live to be appreciated. 'Til the Medicine Takes jumps perfectly from laid-back ("Party at Your Mama's House," "You'll Be Fine"), to rocking ("Dyin' Man," "All Time Low"), to touching ("The Waker," "Nobody's Loss"), with some southern-fried delicacies littered between.

While I'm in no hurry to go to another show, or even grab their latest studio album, 'Til the Medicine Takes will always hold its place in rarefied jam world air: a damn good record you can still spin 20 years later.


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