I was recently contacted by the band, Morgan Washam and Bloodmoon to check out their newest album, recorded live at the Markay Cultural Arts Center in Jackson, Ohio. I was pleasantly surprised when I put on the first song "Upside Down World" and was immediately transported to this performance and enthralled by the country-rock feel that this song exudes. I felt a real connection to this music immediately.
“Upside Down World” has a simple and smooth melody that is overlaid by killer guitar work and solos from Matt Simpkins, lots of reverb and some delay really accentuates the sound of Bloodmoon. I must say I was impressed with the guitar work on the song and the lyrics match the songs feel and vibe, political and reverent. Almost Bowie like in vocal qualities and The Band like in others. The saxophone adds so much to the song and makes it a great album opener.
The next song, “Nevermind” begins with acoustic guitar chords and great vocal styling’s from Morgan Washam. This song is reminiscent of Jethro Tull, flute included. Very passionate and epic in it's transitions and changes. While Bloodmoon isn't technically a Jam Band they have all the qualities to rival any band with extended solos and transitory changes. The music is classic rock driven and I am positive any music fan can find something in this song that catch’s their fancy. At 7:57 in length Morgan and Bloodmoon are showing off their life performance prowess.
“Been Lying To You” takes a slower and more mellow, country approach. Morgan's voice is distinct but changes for the song to sound more like a Neil Young or original singer-songwriter feel. This song, while country through and through, adds a lyrical quality that is well beyond what is on today's popular country charts. The lyrics to “Been Lying To You” tell a poignant story and over arching theme of truth and despair that every good country song must have. Track 4, “Worlds Apart” from the first album is played very well and again the saxophone from Nicole Sherburne takes this song even further. I went back and listened to this song on the original album cut and I prefer this live version. Morgan and Bloodmoon show versatile musicianship and great lyrical approach in “Worlds Apart.” This is one of my favorite tracks off this album. While very reminiscent of many songs from different genres, Bloodmoon adds these influences together to form something cohesive and original.
“Crawling On Back To The Sea” is a great southern rock song with lyrics to match. I am increasingly impressed with Morgan Washam and Bloodmoon. The recording itself is very well done and the sound is studio quality. This live album is proof that this band is worth going to see live. “Butterfly” starts out much harder than some of the other songs on this live album and takes a groovy turn with lots of tremolo via the guitar and an upbeat rhythm section: Josh Heber on drums and Jordan Lombardo on bass. This song is groovy and makes me want to get up and dance. With songs like this, Morgan and Bloodmoon could play many festivals, including Jam festivals but most definitely Country Rock-Roots Festivals. They could easily find new fans in this scene that would be eager to listen to what they had to say and play.
“Freeways Of Time” takes us into introspective territory but after such a rockin’ song like “Butterfly” it feels right within the mix. “Freeway” is very southern and just like its name, takes the listener on a ride down the back roads with a blood moon on the horizon. I honestly think this song best exemplifies this bands sound and song structures. “Drifting Away” shows some great key work from Ryan Paradise, who uses the organ to perfection in this particular song. This song is slower but it is well written and played exceptionally for a live rendition. “My Brothers and Sisters In Christ” seems to be the only cover on this album and when I saw the title name, I had no idea how funky and groovy this song would be. Classic Gospel turned on its head and play differently then I never heard and I loved it. It was very reminiscent of the Grateful Dead and Jerry Garcia Band, which is something I am sure would fit right in with our world. To end the album, the song, “Hand In Hand, We Stand” seems fitting and make sense to the message Morgan and Bloodmoon are trying to create, not only musically but also on stage in a live performance.
All in all, I really enjoyed this album. It was thoroughly well done and thought out, professionally recorded and added something special to my musical catalog that I had not had previously. I particularly like “Butterfly” and I went back and listened to that song numerous times throughout writing this review. After thoroughly reviewing this live album, I would love to check out Morgan Washam and Bloodmoon live and I believe they would be a great addition to some of the festivals circuits out there today. Check this album out and look for more of this band in the future.
For some reason, when I pictured Pittsburgh, I didn't think of hills and mountainous regions but that's just what it is; the city is a hill, on a hill with hills all around it. But Phishburgh went on in style with a blistering opener and rockin' "My Soul" followed by a keyboard heavy, "NICU" Rage on Page. "Halley's Comet" came in with some doo-wop stylings from the Fab Four. I easily found a ticket outside and inside the show seemed far from sold out, everyone must be heading to NYC, for the Bakers Dozen, which is bound to be filled with mind blowing music and stellar set lists.
The new tilting light fixtures were showed off, interesting set up but still far away from the Red Hot Chili Peppers new lighting rig. Although "Halleys Comet" has a tight structure and jam, the lyrics well, not so much. But this one always goes into type II fairly quickly. Sick transition into "Undermined" which was deep dark and funky.
First set is already more up beat than the previous nights
performance in Ohio. Weak ending to "Undermind" but still solid all around.
"Divided Sky" shows complete mastery in technical ability from all the players; blistering with improvisation and raw energy; beautiful and flowering as ever. Some sort of mike song; I had never hear it before, reggae influenced. It wasn't my favorite but a nice break for those that wished to take one. Found out later it is called "Marissa" and was a Phish debut. Next was "Home" with a great jam into a "Prince Caspian" which turns out to be one of the best of all time. One for the ages. It started off slow but I truly like this song, it gets stuck in my head but it may be because I'm a fan of Narnia. I still think Gamehenge and The Man Who Stepped Into Yesterday could make a killer live action movie with many of the songs taking on a life of their own already. "Prince Caspian" had wings and was by far the best jam of the tour, so far!
"Punch You In The Eye" begins the second set; we were all waiting for this! Mike and Trey do their dance. The change into the next song was ambient, long and intricate, a jam that could take this band and crowd anywhere, showing real improvisational elements. Drops into "Mr. Completely" which hasn't been played in 14 years. The next few songs were slower and included another debut "Come Together" no, not the Beatles song. This led right into a funky "Contact." I have never appreciated the lyrics to this song but the music is intricate and difficult and it has a lot to offer from: great solos to musical qualities, even audience participation. A quick but great rendition of "Axilla" into "Steam" which felt like a long, slow jam coming but that went quickly into "Backwards Down The Number Line" a complete and utter Phish classic. Who can't help but think of all their friends, family and loved ones when this song plays? They certainly know how to end a song. They always bring the heat toward the end of a performance.
The encore was lackluster but included "Rocky Top" which is always an awesome way to close out a show. We stopped as the precession of buses came by. We all waved at Trey but he had his back to us. One of the buses was broke down on the side of the highway in the way out.
I will be doing at least one night at MSG and truly hope we see a Phish that is taking chances, trying new things and improvising. I hope they blow the roof off of MSG and do it right! Don't forget about the phans guys! See you freaks there.
Jam Band Purist
Widespread Panic-Red Rocks 2017: Keeping The Tradition Alive (A Reflection On Widespread Panic) by Jam Band Purist
The ultimate southern jam band, Widespread Panic returned to Red Rocks Amphitheater this year to defend their title for most sold-out shows with 54 total sold-out performances. I have personally witnessed 12 of these concerts and this was my fourth consecutive year catching WSP Red Rocks run here in Colorado.
The yearly pilgrimage back to Colorado is well worth it once I set my feet on the rocks and feel the vibrations resonate through my body. Mind the 24-Hour Drive from Virginia and the long expanse that is Kansas... dear God. I took my time and experienced America, taking in the sights and the scenery, the feeling of the Midwest, the western plains and everything in between.
After driving and reflecting on this journey, I have come to realize the importance of small rural communities. These small towns make up most of the United States and are very important to the stability of American culture and American life itself. This importance in small communities can be juxtaposed with our small musical community, without which we wouldn't have such ravenous and fanatic fans and bands like, Widespread Panic could never hold sold-out records for one of the highest rated venues in the world. Without our small group of fans, Phish could never play a 13 night run at Madison Square Garden's, one of the most famous and prestigious venues in the country. Our bands do the biggest things, in the best places because we as fans support them like no other fans in the live music industry.
Mile High City has continued to thrive and grow, although the allure of the foothills has dwindled with each return, the energy inside Red Rocks is always palpable, like a proverbial powder-keg waiting to explode: light fuse, get away.
I will not delve deep into the setlist from this years sold-out performances but I'll just say Friday night was a scorcher. My favorite rendition being, "Tortured Artist." The lyrics and vibe of this songs are haunting and emotional. I hope they bring it back into rotation. JB was in rare form with an amazing solo from out of nowhere that showed off his versatile guitar skills. Jimmy Herring must be showing him a few scales and techniques, or has he always been this good? Friday night exemplified their original material and it provided one of the best renditions of "Chilly Water" I have ever heard; it was dark, ominous, foreboding and JB was wailing like a demonic barn cat.
Saturday night was all about the covers with Leon Russell's "A Hard Rain Is Gonna Fall" which has been following me around all summer; a sloppy, "Ride Me High" and very expected, "New Mother Nature" culminating in an outstanding version of "Low Sparks." Before the band came onstage for the encore, NASA radio controls could be heard through the PA, a lift off countdown was started and it felt like something serious was about to happen. A space shuttle erupts into take-off, projected onto the main screen; the lights go crazy for "Disco."
Sunday was a very slow show, one of the slowest I have witnessed since 9/11/16 last year in Philly. This show marked my 70th Widespread Panic concert and although I did get some outstanding rarities, the band never seem to achieve lift-off like the night before. Very few build-ups and breakdowns for a somewhat lackluster performance. The Studio 54 logo was projected on the main screen in representation of Widespread Panic's 54th sold-out performance at Red Rocks Amphitheater.
These shows also mark my one year anniversary of starting this music journalism, writing adventure and I want to thank everyone who has supported me and helped along the way. I wouldn't be here today if it weren't for this scene and the amazing bands that drive it forward. Thank you all.
Widespread Panic continues to push forward, never really slowing down, just taking it a little easier each year. Just a few years ago fans were afraid that Panic had called it quits but Widespread Panic endures and continues headlining festivals and selling out venues all over the country, including the greatest outdoor venue in the country, if not the world. As a constant fan of this band and their musical accomplishments, I would love to see Widespread Panic dig in their heels and return to the improvisationally raw and highly formed jam techniques that they once mastered. Try new things, keep the audience on their toes, don't become stagnant, allow for freedom and looseness within the songs that we all know and love, take chances, improvise to the point of utter chaos, don't rely so heavily on drums (every night) and work on new Southern Gothic material. All that being said Widespread Panic will always be one of my favorite live bands and I look forward to seeing what they will bring this Halloween in Las Vegas. See you then.
Jam Band Purist
WARNING: The views and opinions expressed on this site may not be in conjecture with your own. Be Advised
Editor: Robert (R.A.) Fadley
Freelance Writer, Musicologist, Music Journalist, Music Critic, Music Writer, Author, Musician, Singer-songwriter, Composer, Guitarist.