Since the earliest days of the Delta blues, some of the purest, most soul-filled live music known to man has come form the South. In the 1970’s, it was the Allman Brothers who ruled the Southern jam scene. As the 70’s gave way to the 80’s and the Brothers and fellow southern rockers Lynyrd Skynyrd had fallen from their primes, the new music coming from the South seemed built more for college radio than live performances.
That all changed in the late 80s, as Widespread Panic came along to totally dominate the Southern tour circuit. The band eventually graduated from regional clubs to international stardom and brought glory back to the Southern music scene. In the process, their hometown of Athens has again become a hotbed of young musical talent.
Over 18 years and thousands of shows, Panic has become much more than just a rock band. For many, they have become a way of life, a soundtrack to our lives, a huge part of our soul. While Panic will also hold this special place in the hearts of their fans, their impending hiatus quickly approaches, leaving fans to ponder just who “the next big thing” will be.
Here is one fan's thoughts on a few bands from the South who may benefit the most from Panic’s absence:
Tishamingo: Mixing classic rock and blues with swampy southern jams, this band makes music that really gets a crowd moving. Guitarist Cameron Williams and drummer Richard Proctor have been writing and playing music together since they were in the seventh grade, creating a special chemistry that can only be found in the very best of bands. Together, they founded the Black Creek Band, who gained regional notoriety throughout the south in the early 90’s as the opened shows for such acts as Tinsely Ellis, the Derek Trucks Band, and Widespread Panic.
Eventually, the duo hooked up with guitarist Jess Franklin and bassist Stephen Spivey, formerly of Jess Franklin and the Best Little Blues Band, to former Tishamingo. The band released their highly anticipated debut album in October 2002. With the aid of acclaimed Athens producer John Keane, the band laid down twelve tracks, many of which instantly sound like familiar classics. The band’s following continues to grow steadily. If you’re looking for a taste of good old, Southern jam, and you have yet to check out this hot young band, they may just the thing to cure your post-Panic blues
Drive By Truckers: Far more Lynyrd Skynyrd than Widespread Panic, Patterson Hood and his bandmates have been causing quite a stir since the release of Southern Rock Opera album in 2001. Later re-released on Lost Highway Records in 2002, this album forced the music world to take notice of this five-piece outfit, originally from Alabama, who now also call Athens home.
The band continued to make huge waves with Decoration Day, which was recorded in Athens with producer Dave Barbe. The album, along with live shows that are becoming legendary for their high energy triple guitar attack, has solidified the Truckers as one of the hottest bands on tour circuit today.
But in the end, the real winners will be…
Gov’t Mule: After three years of playing with a revolving, star-studded cast of bass players, Gov't Mule recently named Andy Hess as their new, permanent bassist. Hess, who spent much of this year touring with jazz genius John Scofield, joined Mule for their "Rebirth of the Mule" that began in October.
Over the past three years, Mule’s Warren Haynes has finally gained his just due as one of the world’s greatest guitar players. He was ranked #23 on Rolling Stone's list of the Top 100 Guitar players of all-time, shortly after Matt Abts had been named drummer of the year by another publication.
Mule has just released The Deepest End, a two CD/single DVD package, which contains every song from their May 3rd, 2003 show at the Saenger Theatre in New Orleans. As the world has the chance to witness what was surely one of the most monumental shows of all-time, Mule will no doubt become known for what they have long been – one of the best live bands the world has ever known.