Widespread Panic’s first album in five years, Street Dogs, is finally here and fans will be satisfied to learn that it sounds exceptional. The 10-track disc features a number of new Panic tunes as well as a handful of already road-tested songs, including several cover tunes that already fit into the band’s repertoire like a glove. Recorded at long-time friend and producer John Keane’s Echo Mountain in Asheville, NC, the album has a natural, live concert feel to it, thanks in large part to the first time the band has ever recorded with all six musicians playing live together in studio. The product is a rich and accurate portrayal of Widespread Panic in 2015.

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The opening track, Alan Price’s “Sell, Sell” has been in the Widespread catalog since 2012 and sounds like a tune that could have been written by the band itself. The song showcases the steady, stop and go rhythmic aptitude of young drummer Duane Trucks, who will give way to Panic’s permanent drummer Todd Nance in early 2016, and of course, a strong section of patented Jimmy Herring guitar shredding. To date, this feels like the most “Jimmy” of the Panic albums recorded with Herring.  

“Steven’s Cat” follows. An homage to the great Cat Stevens if you pay attention to the lyrics closely enough, Panic’s John Bell tells Billboard about the song, “Y’know, when you’re together for 30 years as a band, you should be able to just not take yourselves very seriously. It was a lot of fun, very satisfying with that particular song. Everything thought it was just all in good fun.” The same goes with “Cease Fire,” a song that Widespread debuted earlier this year in Oakland, CA. Sprinkled with bits of Latin and Eastern influences and some plush instrumentation, the song has a great live feel to it.

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Saddled in the middle of the album are “Jamais Vu (The World Has Changed)” and “Angels Don’t Sing The Blues,” two slower tempo’ed songs that let the listener take a short break from the intense pace of the beginning few tracks. Both tunes feature soothing and sustained, long drawn out tones from Herring, with the latter relying on some sweet acoustic instrumentation before giving away to Herring’s sweeping guitar in the outro. 

A heavy, Murray McLauchlan-adapted “Honky Red” comes next, and definitely paints some interesting imagery. More than anything, the folk/country tune paints the portrait of a war veteran, with “‘Nam” updated to “Iraq” in the lyrics, down on his luck and romantically involved with his favorite drink, Honky Red. Perhaps not politically motivated, at least explicitly, “Honky Red” and even “Cease Fire” could be seen as commentary on where our country stands in the world today, particularly in the Middle East. 

The John “JoJo” Herman-lead “Poorhouse Of Positive Thinking” is a another tune about alcohol, but on a bit of a lighter note. The song stays on course of a traditional bar room diddy before segueing into a boogie down the stretch with Herring and JoJo teaming up for some sweet interplay.  “Welcome To My World” is an undeniable, southern rock, pedal to the metal heater that will have no trouble finding a home somewhere early on in Panic set lists, as it will provide a great spark plug for any crowd.

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On the penultimate track of the album, “Tail Dragger,” John Bell dials up his best version of legendary blues singer Howlin’ Wolf. JB’s gritty, seasoned vocals fixed amid the strong rhythm section of Dave Schools  on bass, Domingo “Sunny” Ortiz on percussion and Duane Trucks on drums, with Herring’s sharp blues riffs, makes for one great cover track.

The final song on the album, “Street Dogs For Breakfast,” is the brainchild of JoJo, a fun, retrospective tune, speaking to his classical training in New York City as well as his experiences in New Orleans, thus “street dogs for breakfast” and “whiskey sours for lunch,” two trademarks of two incredible cities. The notion JoJo sings about, “Sometimes you gotta bottom out, to really find yourself,” is certainly one that many can identify with. No one is invincible for forever.

Overall, Street Dogs is a very enjoyable listen and reflects Widespread Panic’s immense talents as one of the premier jam bands in the scene today, as they are just as astute to going into the studio and coming out with a polished product as they are to blowing the roof off a venue on any given night. This is an album you’ll be pleased to spin at any time.

And don’t forget, you can listen to Street Dogs in it’s entirety before the official release date of the album this Friday, September 25. Pre-orders are underway now and can be accessed here. Check out the stream below: