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Free Somehow

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Album Review

Another Widespread Panic album, another attempt to transfer the band's live energy onto tape. Free Somehow isn't Widespread's best studio effort to date, nor does it pack the same punch as the band's ever-popular concerts, where extended solos and long-running jams are more likely to illicit dropping jaws than drowsy, nodding heads. Still, this disc is nothing to sleep through, even if Widespread Panic haven't learned to utilize a studio's amenities as well as Phish or moe. "Boom Boom Boom," "Walk on the Flood," and "Flicker" are fierce tunes, full of enough guitar muscle and saucy strut to make them worthy of repeated listens, although they do sound geared for a live setting. Free Somehow gets intimate, too, most notably with the lilting title track and the steady, elegiac "Dark Day Program." But Widespread Panic don't truly stretch their wings until the album's final stretch, where "Her Dance Needs No Body" takes the listener on an eight-minute stoner's odyssey of rainy-day guitars, horns, sweeping percussion, and orchestrated strings. It's a well-crafted song with movements, interludes, and multiple guitar solos, a cross between the Grateful Dead's "Dark Star" and Guns N' Roses' "November Rain." Here, the band truly works with the studio's capabilities, layering the standout track with instruments and adding a thick, crisp slab of reverb to John Bell's vocals. So while Free Somehow can't quite rival the energy of a Widespread show, it still offers something that those concerts cannot, making the album a worthwhile purchase for most dedicated fans.

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Free Somehow, Widespread Panic
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