Widespread Panic Bestows Ultimate Trust in New Orleans November 8, 2019 14:44

Words by Jordan Kirkland: Live & Listen

Photos by Craig Baird: Home Team Photography

Now that I’ve had several days to regroup, it seems fitting to sit down and revisit last weekend’s Halloween festivities with Widespread Panic. After 18 years of seeing this band, I finally had the opportunity to make this special tradition a priority. Halloween is always amongst the biggest annual events for any major touring act, and Widespread Panic never fails to deliver to its fervent fan base. 

Speculation was rampant, as expected, leading into Thursday night’s show. Upon entering UNO Arena, fans were introduced to an elaborate stage setup, which included Christmas decorations, a taxi cab, a wrestling wring, and what appeared to be the back drop of a comedy club. We began wondering if these props could somehow be tied to Andy Kaufman, and this would prove to be the case later in the night. The band took the stage, and immediately invited NOLA’s own George Porter Jr. to join them on stage. Bassist Dave Schools let George take the lead on bass, while he focused his efforts on the rubber chicken, and the band appropriately kicked into The Meters’ “Chicken Strut.” They proceeded to get the entire room singing along for “Hey Pocky Way,” another Meters’ classic. 

The first set continued with The Talking Heads’ “Papa Legba,” and originals such as “One Arm Steve,” “Love Tractor,” “Hatfield,” “All Time Low,” and “Pilgrims” would follow. It had been two and a half years since the last cover of James Taylor’s “Knockin’ Round the Zoo” (JazzFest 2017), which made this set closer that much more raucous. The second set began with the theme to Mighty Mouse playing over the PA, before the band dropped into Bloodkin’s “Henry Parsons Died.” This was followed by a powerful “Surprise Valley” > “Arleen” > “Surprise Valley.” We stomped around the “Old Neighborhood” just before a rockin’ take on “Holden Oversoul.” The next bust out came in the form of Howlin’ Wolf’s “Spoonful” (LTP 10/08/14 Montgomery, AL), and “Tallboy” had the whole place going wild. 

The Halloween antics really began taking shape from here. John Bell welcomed REM’s Mike Mills to the stage, and the debut of Lou Reef’s “Perfect Day” was a beautiful surprise. At some point, a man posted up at a small table on stage left, where he proceeded to eat a meal and drink wine. Two more debuts then surfaced in the form of David Bowie’s “Starman” and REM’s “Man on the Moon” both with the help of Mills on guitar/bass and Paul Agostino on keys. “Porch Song” was an absolutely perfect way to close out this set.

The encore was without a doubt one of the more interesting live music experiences of my life. The band returned to the stage with Mills and Agostino, while drummer Duane Trucks was on bass and Dave Schools front and center. I had absolutely no idea what was going on at the time, but Schools proceeded to inform us all that “I Trusted You” for the better part of five minutes (see video below). Two more highly obscure Andy Kaufman nods followed with “This Friendly World” and “Volare,” before tour manager Steve Lopez took the stage to ask the audience to please stop smoking in the building.  This is when things got really bizarre.

John Bell invited the infamous Tony Clifton to the stage. I will go ahead and admit that I didn’t realize this was keyboardist JoJo Hermann until the following day. He began singing about “Tacos” being cheap, before a “heckler” started screaming obscenities at him. Clifton appeared to be fed up with said heckler, told her to suck one, and she jumped on stage to throw multiple drinks at the band. At this point, the band exited the stage, security escorted the woman off stage, the lights came on, and we all wondered, “what the fuck just happened?” The band would immediately offer an emphatic apology to the fans via social media, which proved to be all part of an extensive Andy Kaufman inspired Halloween gag.  Like I said, it was an interesting night, but it was also pure genius, in my humble opinion.

Watch Widespread Panic perform "I Trusted You" here:

The Panic faithful had plenty to discuss leading into Friday night’s show. Was this the last of the shenanigans, or would this be a common theme throughout the weekend?  We wouldn’t see any gags on night two, but Jesus Christ, did we get a hot show. The first set was one big “Bowlegged” > “Chilly Sandwich,” with tunes such as “”Little Lilly,” “Visiting Day,” “Walkin’ (For Your Love),” and “You Got Yours” thrown in the middle. JB had a slight technical malfunction during “Christmas Katie,” which left the frontman singing without his guitar for the first half of the song. The highlight of the set had to be the first “Entering a Black Hole Backwards” since 2014 dropping back into “Chilly Water,” which would then segue back into “Bowlegged.” That is Widespread Panic at its finest. 

 Everyone’s got their own opinion, but for me, the perfect Panic set begins with “Disco" > "Diner.” This smokin' set continued with “Blackout Blues,” “The Last Straw, and “Mercy,” before we got our first “Drums” of the weekend. They came back out guns blazing with “Chainsaw City” and “Four Cornered Room,” then “Jack” led straight into a “Red Hot Mama” from Louisiana that nearly brought the house down. The band revisited the 2017 Halloween show with The Dillards’ “There is a Time,” which was originally performed on the Andy Griffith Show, and Tom Petty’s “You Wreck Me” would put the finishing touches on a damn near flawless show.

I think we were all convinced that it was Sunday at this point, but fortunately, this run began on a Thursday night. What was left in the tank for Saturday? We were in for a treat…that’s for sure. We started with a flashback to Pulp Fiction when guitarist Jimmy Herring ripped into “Rumble,” an instrumental by Link Wray & His Ray Men. The set continued with Tom Waits’ “Goin’ Out West” and “Greta,” and “Climb to Safety” would follow. Being that this song has become somewhat of a Panic anthem (even though it’s Jerry Joseph’s song), it’s reputation is somewhat controversial. I, for one, will never get tired of hearing it. On this night, I experienced one of the more euphoric body highs of my life during the first chorus. Every hair of my body was standing on edge, and it felt really fucking good.

“Junior” and “Makes Sense to Me” were next on the list, just before one of the weekend’s most exciting moments. Dumpstaphunk’s Ivan Neville joined the band for an amazing sequence of “Sleepy Monkey” > “I Walk on Guilded Splinters” (Dr. John) > “Cream Puff War" (Grateful Dead). Does it get any hotter than that?  The second set was equally as impressive. We were off to the races with “Radio Child” and “Thought Sausage.” Another bust out surfaced with John Lennon & Yoko Ono’s “The Ballad of John & Yoko.” “Honkey Red” set a super heavy, serious tone, before an absolutely perfect “Driving Song” was played. “Breathing Slow” led into another rager, “Impossible,” and Vampire Blues came next. “Pigeons” is always a treat, especially when “Papa’s Home” is looming in the distance. Trucks and percussionist Sonny Ortiz led us through another impressive “Drums,” which landed back into “Papa’s” just in time for a set closing “Action Man.” 

While I’ve seen several nods to the late Col. Bruce Hampton, it had been about eight years (02/14/11) since I had seen Panic play “Basically Frightened.” This would begin the encore and lead perfectly into “Blue Indian.” It then appeared that “Postcard” would close out the weekend. Per usual, the entire building was ready to shout, “This town is nuts. My kind of place. I don’t ever wanna leave.” Not so fast, y’all.  We were treated to a reprise of “I Trusted You,” and I’m not sure I’ve ever laughed so hard. Are you kidding me?

There were high expectations for my first Halloween with Panic, and this band never lets me down. What almost seemed like a page out of the Phish playbook made this weekend as unique as any I’ve experienced. These musical journeys always seem to leave us feeling recharged and grateful for this fortunate life we live. There is nothing I’d rather do than embark on a weekend of mayhem with some of the best friends you could ever ask for, along with one of the greatest bands to ever take the stage.

An Intimate Weekend of Classics in the Capital with Widespread Panic March 20, 2018 17:25

Words by Erika Rasmussen: Rasmusic
Photos by Jeff Fernandez:
We kicked-off this last Panic weekend in DC in the best possible way, with a cozy little JoJo show at The Pearl Street Warehouse. This family reunion environment set the tone for the rest of the weekend. Big shout out to the sound guy for hooking me up with the setlist. Though certainly bigger than Pearl Street, the MGM Grand at National Harbor only seats 3,000 people. Everyone dedicated enough to head into town got a ticket (as far as I know) and we all got to settle into a weekend of running into your favorite people and your favorite songs. The location within the harbor also kept us bumping into each other all weekend and I, personally, really enjoyed the proximity. We were all united in solidarity.
Thursday, March 15, featured 6 songs they’ve played less than 100 times. For a band on the run for 32 years, those are fun songs to catch. “Hope in a Hopeless World” was especially fitting during this time and place. We were all treated to “Travelin’ Man”, which hasn’t been played in almost four years and was a FTP for Duane. He killed it, of course. Set 1 closed with two songs from The Band, so I was grinning pretty wildly, considering Levon Helm is my historical man crush. First we got “The Shape I’m In”, which they’ve only played about 28 times and then we got good ole “Ophelia” right before we closed the set with “Porch Song”. The second set was highlighted by “Come Together”, which they’ve only played 7 times before and they haven’t played since ‘05, so clearly Jimmy and Duane hadn’t had a chance to showcase this for us yet. And the song was amazing. I almost gave myself a cardiac arrest running to and dancing at the rail. (Note to self: stop that.) Night 1 closed with “For What It’s Worth”. Interestingly enough, this was a part of their very first show ever at the A-Frame house in ‘85 and they didn’t play it for almost 23 years (‘88-’11). They’ve only played “FWIW” two dozen times before and I’ve been fortunate enough to see 1⁄4 of those performances out of sheer luck. Music gods be praised.
Friday, March 16, rocked it straight outta the gate with “Chainsaw City”. This song will always remind me (and many, many people on tour) of our beloved Richard Todd and I was thrilled that his memory was a part of our weekend. We were also treated to “Travelin’ Light”. Fun fact: did you know that it’s been played exactly 1013 times before? Little “Arleen” magic for ya.... Many people found “Gradle” to be a big high point for them, considering we hadn’t gotten that song in over a year and it’s just a beautiful song. “Sleepy Monkey” was another popular favorite because, well, it’s “Sleepy Monkey”. The boys came out strong at Set 2 by opening with WAR’s “Slippin’ into Darkness” featuring tour manager, Steve Lopez, on percussion. The song and the manager are fan favorites and when Lopez joins them occasionally onstage for this, it’s a huge treat for everyone involved. A HUGE surprise for me was hearing them break out Robert Johnson’s blues classic “Love in Vain” for the first time ever. But, then again, how many Robert Johnson songs do you NOT like?
Saturday, March 17, was quite a St. Panic’s Day for all of us. Of course they had to play “Bust it Big”. How can you not play “beware of the man, who builds monuments to himself” in DC right now? A rare song they pulled out for us was “One Kind Favor”. This is a beautiful song and if you don’t know the lyrics, you should go check them out right now. Saturday saw the second ever “Sundown Betty” and it’s nice to see that join the rotation. The most Irish moment of all came in the middle of the encore, sandwiched between “Saint Ex” and “Love Tractor”. JB busted out  “Toura Loura Loura”, the Irish lullaby, with all the heart and soul of Dublin’s finest.
The weekend accomplished exactly what I’d think the band would  want. We all came together, whether it was pulling last minute tickets for your friends, sharing lodging, or phoning a friend to come spring you out of the hotel basement that you got locked into (long story). I left town with my heart full and my spirit content. I actually spent almost the entire ride home chatting with my new tour bestie (thanks, Jimmy!) and planning my next shows. Let’s carry that love and unity into the year with us. I can’t wait to see all of your smiling faces in Charleston for my Cinco de Birthday show, but I trust you’ll represent the Home Team well in Wanee without this ole girl. It was cold and windy in DC, but I think we’re all feeling the warm fuzzies after this weekend. “Tell me, brother, can you see the sun; From where you’re standing now?”
Watch video footage of "Come Together" here:
Watch video footage of "Slippin' Into Darkness" > "Machine" here:
Watch video footage of "Driving Song" > "Disco" > "Driving Song" here:

Widespead Panic In The Magic City: Trouble Set Me Free February 20, 2018 11:26

Words by Erika Rasmussen

Photos by Clay Carroll: Carroll Production

This past weekend at the BJCC in Birmingham, AL, was a time of reflection and a time of healing. Widespread Panic’s songs and face-melting jams provided some much needed therapy. This is a time of violence and culture clashes. We've seen it in the form of mass shootings nationally and the nitrous mafia scene right on Shakedown. But tour time also includes the greatest examples of people helping each other out. I watched the kindest vendor take time to sit and talk with a guy who’d had a little too much, too fast. He kept this tall fella from falling to his feet and from wandering into trouble. I saw my friends rallying to find those last minute tickets for everyone seeking a night of solace. I stopped by Avondale Common House, owned by fans and packed by other happy fans. I got to take part in a big carpool since my poor engine is struggling and we all threw in on a hotel room together. Again. It’s this family spirit that keeps us coming back to the shows. It’s the therapy of listening to JB pour his heart and soul out into the mic. It’s the chance of getting to see the people that you love from all over the country, even if just for a quick hug in the hallway. (Lookin’ at you, Sweet Melissa…)

Night 1, Set 1 opened with “Pleas > Makes Sense to Me” followed by “Little Kin”. And then, did we get to catch a breath? Nope. Straight into “Action Man”. I don’t think anyone had a breather until JoJo slowed it down with “Street Dogs”. And THEN, we got a “Red Beans Cookin’”. And I mean, COOKIN’. We haven’t sampled that tasty dish since 9/24/16. Yum. “Red Beans” went into “All Time Low” and I asked a friend if they, too, always sing the Dottie Peoples part during this song. They agreed that they did, pretty much every time.

Set 2 was full of currently relevant references. “Greta’s got a gun, this ain’t no flower child…”. My personal favorite political commentary of the night came during “Flicker”. “Talking it to death, Just because you mean it, Doesn’t mean we’ve seen it…”. That’s a beautiful way to sum up the feelings of the country right now and our frustration with inaction. But, “I’m Not Alone” says, “And then I turn a little bit scared, Well I feel a little bit easier, Knowing that you’re all here…”. Don’t you always feel better when you’re surrounded by a crowd full of your friends and people like you? And bonus points to me for having carried my custom “This clearly isn’t me” clear vinyl bag to follow the new BJCC bag policy. Which they later retracted. Sigh.

The three-song encore kicked off with “Gimme”, not heard since 5/4/17. Everything seems like a news commentary to me right now, so “Throw myself at the ground, Look away before I hit…” feels especially timely. We closed the night with the staples of “Red Hot Mama” and “Chilly Water” (and where in hell did y’all find water at the end of the night, people?!?).

Night 2, Set 1 started with a “Ribs & Whiskey” opener, which will never get old to me. Of course, I was wearing a Jack Daniels tank top at the time, so I may be a wee bit biased. We got to revel in “B of D” and if you can’t get down to that, man, lemme refer you to a dance therapist. My favorite delight of the set was the “Lawyers, Guns, & Money”. Not only is this the theme song of our badass friend, Rayner, but it’s also one we haven’t heard since 8/12/17. And hasn’t the shit hit the proverbial fan? Hmm?

The second set jumped right off with a “Let’s Get This Show on the Road”, which I like for the final night’s final set. According to Panic Stream and Everyday Companion, we haven’t gotten this show on the road since 10/26/16? What?!? About time. After a tear-jerker of a “Mercy”, we had a hot “Stop-Go” that hasn’t been around in almost six months. And did anyone else hear a “Fire on the Mountain” tease in there?

The final encore began with “Trouble”. Whew. Let me sing you the song of my people, I tell ya. Next up was a beautiful “Honey Bee” that’s only the third ever. This began as a touching tribute to Tom Petty at Halloween ‘17 and again at NYE.

The boys wrapped it all up with a “Rockin’ in the Free World”. Panic has only covered this Neil Young classic four times before, the last of which was 10/25/15. The entire crowd was screaming along to “There’s one more kid that will never go to school, Never get to fall in love, Never get to be cool”. But isn’t that all you can do now? Keep on rockin’ and bein’ the good people? The ones your mama warned you about?

Setlist: Widespread Panic - The BJCC - Friday, February 16th 2018

1: Pleas > Makes Sense To Me, Little Kin, Action Man, Street Dogs For Breakfast > Red Beans, All Time Low > Jam > Space Wrangler > Bowlegged Woman
2: Greta > Jam > Walk On, Tortured Artist > Flicker > Driving Song > I'm Not Alone > Jam > Driving Song > Tie Your Shoes > Jam > Drums > Diner > Sleeping Man, No Sugar Tonight/New Mother Nature
E: Gimme > Red Hot Mama > Chilly Water
['In Memory Of Elizabeth Reed' jam before 'Walk On']

Setlist: Widespread Panic - The BJCC - Saturday, February 17th 2018

1: Ribs And Whiskey, Send Your Mind, Proving Ground, Walkin' (For Your Love), Holden Oversoul > Jam > The Last Straw, B of D, Lawyers, Guns, And Money, Ain't Life Grand
2: Let's Get The Show On The Road, Blackout Blues, Who Do You Belong To? > Jam > Mercy > Weight Of The World, Big Wooly Mammoth > Papa's Home > Drums > Stop-Go, Blight, Climb To Safety
E: Trouble, Honey Bee, Rockin' In The Free World


Watch a clip of "Rockin' In The Free World" here:

Watch a clip of "Big Wooly Mammoth" here"



The Ghost of Mr. Johnny Cash Dumped Out My Cocaine: The Story Behind the Song January 8, 2018 15:34

By Daniel Hutchens: Bloodkin
Featuring Dave Schools: Widespread Panic
Introduction by Erika Rasmussen: Rasmusic
Photos by Craig Baird: Home Team Photography

Erika Rasmussen: Danny and I share many mutual friends and came to know each other as an Athens certainty. We’ve gone back and forth for a while on ways to combine our love of writing in a collaborative project. We cooked up the idea of a series of writings, each featuring a different song and a different musician. When I got a chance to work on this project, of all the songs in Danny's amazing library, this was the first song I jumped on. And I’m so glad to know the backstory and appreciate the song even more now. No story of the South is complete without some of our seniors appearing as old growth trees in this ever-changing landscape. And getting the input of my beloved Dave Schools about this amazing song? Well, that’s the ice cube in my drink.

Sometimes the opening line to a song makes you do a double take and take stock of the band all over again. Try this one on for size: “The ghost of Mr. Johnny Cash dumped out my cocaine, At least my Mama told me he did…” I was enjoying another raucous night in the Classic City, watching Bloodkin do what they do best. This was at their annual “Bloodkin & Friends” show, this year burning down the house at The 40 Watt Club. I thought I knew Bloodkin's songs and their style by this point. I wasn't the only one who did a double take at the opening line of this song, either. It’s an attention-grabber. This song has a different twang to me that is irresistible. It doesn’t hurt that Danny sprinkled some of my musical heroes throughout the song’s lyrics. “Waylon Jennings says I’ll go to hell, if I don’t change my evil ways…Waylon Jennings ought to know mighty well.” I may lean towards this song because “American Country Ghosts” has the driving heartbreak sound of some of my favorite bittersweet ballads. Danny's poetic imagery and authentic Southern angst are reminiscent of a Patterson Hood rant or a Sarah Shook tale of woe. This is the kind of song that you find yourself walking around singing and, more importantly, contemplating, for days afterward.

So pull up a chair. Pour a finger (or two) of whiskey. And sit back for the story behind the song.

Click here to stream/purchase Daniel Hutchens' album, The Beautiful Vicious Cycle of Life. Catch Bloodkin in Birmingham at The Nick after both nights of Widespread Panic at the BJCC in February!

Daniel Hutchens: Toward the end of her life, my mother, Frankie Irene, developed dementia and was no longer able to live on her own. In previous years she seemed to anticipate what was coming, and was fearful about the idea of being placed in a “nursing home.” (Modern and politically correct terminology is “assisted living”, “senior living”, etc., but Mom called these places “nursing homes.”) Mom and I had a deep bond, always emotionally close, though we disagreed about plenty and could certainly do our share of bickering. I think I inherited some of her pure Appalachian stubborn. But anyway, some years back, she and I came to an agreement: she told me, “Danny, when the time comes, I want to live with you. Keep me out of those places as long as you can.”

So I did. Mom moved down from West Virginia to live with me in Athens, Georgia in 2011, and stayed with me for 3 ½ years. Until finally my siblings and a small army of doctors convinced me her condition had deteriorated to the point where I couldn’t provide the kind of 24 hour care she needed. That was a judgment call I just couldn’t bring myself to make, and Mom fiercely protested the idea too, when I’d try to.

Mom developed “sundowning” (a condition where moods are extreme and strongly influenced by changing light), and some days she would alternate between bleak depression and fits of rage. And her overall condition intensified; eventually she had zero short term memory, would eat a meal then stand up from the table and ask when we were going to eat, etc. She was also delusional and often asked when we were going to be leaving on some imagined journey, or insistently tried to find a person who had been dead many years. She sometimes woke me by leaning over my bed and asking where one of her long-dead husbands had wandered off to, saying, “I was just talking to him a few minutes ago.” It was a chilling jolt, waking up that way.

But during that sorrowful chaos of Mom’s last year in my house, I really didn’t get much sleep anyway. I stayed up with her all hours, trying to calm her fears. She was often worried and downright scared of something nameless, and wouldn’t drift off to sleep til sunrise. So I sat there in her room and talked with her through many a long night.

Songwriting has always been, among many other things, my form of therapy. And some pretty dark songs worked their way out of me during those distressing days, watching Mom’s decline. One day she walked into the living room in tears and told me, “Danny, I can’t find myself!” That phrase shook me, and I wound up writing a song with Todd Nance called “Can’t Find Myself” (still unreleased).

Another time, I was asleep and dreamt a cinematic version of what later became “American Country Ghosts.” I saw the story in that dream first, and it played out like I was watching a spooky old movie: a dream version of Mom’s old house in West Virginia, and I was living there with her again, but she was still lost in her dementia and slowly dying. And she was relaying messages to me which she said she’d received from the ghosts of great Country Music stars passed: Johnny Cash, Hank Williams, Patsy Cline, and Waylon Jennings. It was a rotten, sad dream emotionally, but the imagery was so strong I had to write it down as soon as I woke up. 

At the same time Mom was struggling, my marriage was fraying, finally leading to a divorce. These events plus the deaths of some dear friends took their toll on me, and I think contributed to some physical ailments. I finally had a minor stroke in 2016, but a few years before that I wound up in an emergency room in San Francisco due to extreme high blood pressure, which ended a Bloodkin acoustic tour of the West Coast. I flew back to Athens to recuperate, and that’s when Dave Schools came to town.

Dave was camped out in John Keane’s studio, mixing the first Hard Working Americans album, and he had invited me to drop by. So one afternoon I meandered over to say hello, and sat with Dave and John awhile and listened to a few mixes. Which were sounding great, and prompted my offhand remark, “Man, this makes me want to make another record.” To which Dave replied, “Well…let’s make one.”

It was that simple. That’s what started the ball rolling for what became my third solo album, The Beautiful Vicious Cycle of Life. I already had a good crop of songs ready to go, which were my stories and confessions about the rough patch I was living through. A few of the songs directly referenced the situation with Mom, including the title song, and most specifically, “American Country Ghosts”.

It was a country song, probably alt-country would be the working category, and I already heard it pretty full-formed in my mind before we began recording over at David Barbe’s Chase Park Transduction studios. Dave Schools produced, Barbe engineered, and we found some great musicians to bring it all to life:

Duane Trucks brought a great sense of vitality and fun to the sessions, and his drumming was rock solid. (This was right before he got the call to step in as Widespread Panic’s drummer; to my knowledge, “Wings and A Walking Cane” is the only recorded track both Duane and Todd Nance play on.) Schools had told me, “Duane’s 24, but don’t worry. He doesn’t play like he’s 24.” Schools himself, as always, brought raw power and creativity with his bass playing. Then we were lucky enough to get finishing touches from brilliant players like Jesse Aycock (a Tulsa native turned Nashville multi-instrumentalist who has played with the likes of Hard Working Americans and Elizabeth Cook), Frank MacDonnell (guitarist for the iconic Athens band The Glands), Coley Duane Dennis (guitarist for the extraordinary instrumental band Maserati), William Tonks (Mike Mills Rock Concerto, Barbara Cue and many others), and Eric Carter (my longtime partner in Bloodkin). Plus Thayer Sarrano layered her keyboards, pedal steel and beautifully ethereal vocals (besides her solo work, she has collaborated with Hope For Agoldensummer, of Montreal, T. Hardy Morris, Cracker and many others).

We wanted to catch a whiff of that original dream essence on the take for “American Country Ghosts”, and I think we did. Jesse’s pedal steel and Thayer’s keyboards provided some of that elusive midnight mood, while Dave and Duane laid down a groove that left me wide open to drop my vocal in the pocket.

These are the people who made Beautiful Vicious happen. (Along with some dear friends at Havin’ A Ball Productions out in Houston, who came through with the financing.) When it comes to songwriting, after all the life experiences and philosophical meandering and dreams, none of it matters if you don’t bring the blueprints to the studio or stage and finally turn on the juice. And these folks cranked it up. Their talents blended into the soulfully haunted “Southern Gothic” rock that Schools and I were looking for. It’s a record I’m particularly proud of, but it was shortchanged in terms of its release and promotion, and I’m currently looking to add bonus digital tracks and rerelease the whole project in the future. Hey, that’s the music business.

“American Country Ghosts” has become one of the most-requested songs I’ve ever written. People always ask for it at live shows, and I get a lot of questions about it on social media. I’m glad it’s turned into such a positive; it came from such a dark place, but that’s the alchemy of music. Just like the Blues. Hearing songs about bad luck and depression can become powerfully uplifting, because you think to yourself, “Hey…someone else out there felt the way I’m feeling. I’m not the only one.”

I like to think of the song as a kind of collaboration with my Mom. A last little gift she was able to give me despite the obstacle of her dementia, her pain and terror and confusion. Like a cool radio station breaking through the static. She was a grand example of unconditional love and put-your- money-where-your-mouth-is country Christianity; she really did think about the welfare of others, always. She’d tell you in no uncertain terms when she thought you were sinning or acting the fool. But then she’d take you in and feed you and help you along your path, any way she could.

“American Country Ghosts” is her song, alright. Same with “Can’t Find Myself”. The sad stories of her last days. But then I also think of a song I wrote back in 2008 that wound up on the Bloodkin record “Baby, They Told Us We Would Rise Again”. That song is called “Rhododendron”, and Patterson Hood honored me by writing, “As a lover of fine Southern literature I can put the [lines of the song] alongside the finest writing I’ve ever seen.”

“Rhododendron” is more a celebration of Frankie Irene’s life overall, and that’s probably what Mom would have preferred. Focusing on the positive. Which I’ve certainly been trying to do this last year, and I happily report that I’m on the mend, and receive encouraging reports from my doctor. Maybe I learned a couple lessons while I was down there in the trenches. Again, the credit goes to Mom.

“God’s own little wildflower. My wild Rhododendron.”

Dave Schools: It was quite an honor when Daniel Hutchens tapped me to produce a solo album for him. I was well aware of the power of his writing as Widespread Panic has recorded many of his tunes and I have witnessed the palpable responses of audiences far and wide when we perform Danny’s music. The impact of his songwriting is undeniable.

One of the bullet points that Danny and I discussed before recording was the idea of creating a core backing band that was of Athens yet unlike anything that listeners had ever heard before complementing his songs. As producer I wanted to be able to sonically represent the emotional impact of these highly personal and often biographical songs and I felt that the disparate backgrounds of the players would help us achieve the goal.

It was a stylistic roll of the dice but it paid off immediately because all of the players understood and adhered to my favorite studio mantra: SERVE THE SONG. And what songs we had to serve.

“American Country Ghosts” was one of the lynchpin tracks in a stack of excellent songs that Danny and I had selected to record and I was further excited by the fact that we had assembled a crackerjack band to back him up: David Barbe (who was also engineering the recording at Chase Park), Duane Trucks, Thayer Sarrano, and myself. Featured on this track is also Tulsa native Jesse Aycock on pedal steel. Danny himself was the constant rock solid foundation of all the tracks as he patiently held the rudder while the band learned the arrangements on the fly. His steady rhythm playing on acoustic perfectly matched the sometimes snarling and always spot on vocal performances. More often than not Danny’s performances are one take masterstrokes.

Having known Danny personally for decades and knowing the struggles he has weathered I felt it was important to insure that the music the group created was an emotional compliment to these highly personal lyrics and that it would in no way cloud the impact of the story told. In this respect the band soared, waiting for the right moments to unleash their personal best on the tracks.

“American Country Ghosts” was also one of the first tunes we cut and was the first time I heard Thayer Sarrano perform. Watching her leave her body while consumed by the gravitas of the song during her piano outro remains one of my favorite studio moments. The restraint of the band until the emotional build at the end of the track is a great example of how we served the contemplative nature of the lyrical content. 

More importantly, “American Country Ghosts” is a unique slice of personal songwriting in the canon of Americana music. Written from the perspective of a man who is dealing with the impending mortality of his mother and the onset of her dementia, he questions the choices he has made in his life as his mother is visited by spirits of country music greats, like Johnny Cash who dumps out his bag of cocaine, and Patsy Cline who reminds him that his mother is a saint. A perspective that seems more and more rare in today’s world of phony sentimentality and self-aggrandizing music.

Here is a songwriter who isn’t simply willing to let his own blood for the listener. Here is a songwriter that has no choice but to pour his inner demons as well as his personal victories out through his art for all to hear and feel. This is something we could use a lot more of in this crazy world.

-Dave Schools: January 6, 2018

Click here to stream/purchase Daniel Hutchens' album, The Beautiful Vicious Cycle of Life


The ghost of Mr. Johnny Cash dumped out my cocaine

At least my Mama told me he did

She’s 90 years old, she’s seeing ghosts again

I shouldn’t have brought that shit in her house but I was hurting so bad

Watching Mama coming to an end


American Country Ghosts

I can’t see ‘em but my Mama can she tells me what they say about me and how I wrecked my life again

Hey, tell me something I don’t already know American Country Ghosts

Now if you can

Patsy Cline says my Mama’s a saint and I should show her more respect

Like apple pie and the 4th of July

Them shiny medals I could never quite hang around my neck Hank Williams says my wife and kids they miss me

But then he drinks my whiskey and he rips up my alimony check



Mama says they wanna talk to me I’d rather hear their sad old songs Mama says they’re pissed off at me

They say I’ve been the outlaw all along

Waylon Jennings says I’ll go to hell if I don’t change my evil ways

Waylon Jennings ought to know mighty well I hear he had his share of evil days

I don’t know why these ghosts give a damn anyway but I’m staying here til Mama leaves

So I’ll listen to what they say


American Country Ghosts

I can’t see ‘em but my Mama can...

Written by Daniel Hutchens

From the record The Beautiful Vicious Cycle of Life

Released April 2016


I can’t find myself

Who was I supposed to be

I don’t know who you’re talking to I don’t know if you know me there’s frost on my window glass I think this is July

And I can’t find myself there’s something in my eye my friend

And I can’t find myself tell me what to do

Should I just sit here or wash some clothes this house is turning blue

There’s something I was gonna ask there’s something on my mind but I just can’t turn it over

It’s leaving me behind my friend


Did you see me just the other day I was laughing and I felt okay

I saw a bluebird in the backyard

Then he flew off and I took it pretty hard my friend

I can’t find myself

I’m not sure if I’m there

There’s a full moon in my mirror there’s an echo everywhere

I guess I could take a little walk

And find out where I go

I’ll start down by the bluegill pond i’ll start off nice and slow

My friend



All you’ve done for spite I ain’t gonna tell on you

All the times you wanna fight I’ll stand toe to toe with you I’ll be true I’ll see it through my friend

I can’t find myself where do you think I am

I used to live up in New Mystic then I moved back to West Virginia so smile when you think of me happy times we used to know I don’t know who you’re talking to I don’t know if you know me now my friend


Written by Daniel Hutchens and Todd Nance Unreleased


Life's a mystery

But it's fragrant as an apple tree swelling her blossoms in July

In the Ohio River valley

The sky's distorting with the heat a kiln-slicked glaze of baby blue

And there's always hard work to be done in the Ohio River valley

She grew up in Silverton drew well water for her family

Laid silverware by the breakfast plates and reckoned she was happy

On a little farm not far from here where the hillsides and the valley

Were tangled thick with summer's blazing fireworks bouquets


Of wild rhododendron wild rhododendron

Wild rhododendron

wildflower wild rhododendron

Wild rhododendron Wild rhododendron wild

And her daddy was a bus driver and her mama was a teacher

And they worked backbreaking hard to raise their children

With a touch of Old Testament iron and a whiff of wild rhododendron

Life's a mystery

But it's tempting as an apple pie cooling a November windowsill in the Ohio River valley

The skies are low and concrete grey the countryside's bare and brambly

But there's always hard work to be done in the Ohio River valley

She grew up in Silverton drew well water for her family

Laid silverware by the breakfast plates and reckoned she was happy

On a little farm not far from here where the hillsides and the valley will soon be drifted deep with snow while seeds wait down below

To bring springtime's rhododendron


Life's a mystery

But it's beautiful as she is god's own little wildflower my wild rhododendron

Written by Daniel Hutchens

From the record Baby, They Told Us We Would Rise Again

Released February, 2009

All songs © Wet Trombone Music BMI

Widespread Panic Donates $176K In Instruments To Tennessee Schools August 17, 2017 09:48


Photo by Craig Baird: Home Team Photography

Two Shelby Country (TN) band programs are now fully equipped to play music thanks to a generous donation from Widespread PanicThe band’s 'Tunes For Tots Foundation' donated $176,898 in brand new instruments to both Cummings School and Raleigh-Egypt Middle and High School. Each year's 'Tunes For Tots' show is held the night before Panic's New Year's run, typically at a much more intimate venue with a premium ticket price (i.e. Ryman Auditorium, The Fillmore Charlotte). Stay tuned for further info on the band's New Year's + Tunes For Tots plans this year!

The official Tunes For Tot's Facebook page describes its mission as the following: "Widespread Panic believes that art education, and in particular music education, is integral to the overall education and advancement of children. Art allows for personal expression, appreciation of ideas, celebration of cultural awareness, sharing emotions, and gives purpose to life. Widespread Panic agrees with research findings that art education supports more traditional academic subjects as well as being a worthy pursuit in its own right." 

Watch the video shared by Shelby County Schools here:


Hard Working Americans Announce First Leg Of Fall Tour Dates June 22, 2017 10:04

Photo by Craig Baird: Home Team Photography

Hard Working Americans have announced the first leg of an upcoming fall tour. The band will hit the road to support a new live album entitled We’re All In This Together. The tour kicks off on September 21st in Houston with the first of two shows with Tedeschi Trucks Band. Following the TTB shows in Houston and Dallas, HWA will headline at the Tower Theatre in Oklahoma City on September 24. The tour will continue with stops Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee, North Carolina and Florida. Atlanta's Variety Playhouse will host what is sure to be a killer tour finale. Stay tuned for additional tour dates, and make sure to follow Hard Working Americans on Facebook for all of the latest updates.

Hard Working Americans Fall Tour Dates:

September 21 Houston, TX—Hobby Center
September 22 Dallas, TX—Music Hall at Fair Park
September 23 Austin, TX—ACL Live Moody Theater
September 24 Oklahoma City, OK—Tower Theatre
September 26 Kansas City, MO—Knuckleheads Saloon
September 27 St. Louis, MO—Delmar Hall
September 28 Bloomington, IL—The Castle Theatre
September 29 Louisville, KY—Headliners Music Hall
September 30 Gatlinburg, TN—Sugarlands MountainFest
October 1 Raleigh, NC—Lincoln Theatre
October 4 Ponte Vedra Beach, FL—Ponte Vedra Concert Hall
October 5 Atlanta, GA—Variety Playhouse

Widespread Panic Announces Three-Night Run In St. Augustine May 8, 2017 09:59

Photo by Craig Baird: Home Team Photography

Southern jam veterans Widespread Panic have added a three-night run at the St. Augustine Amphitheatre in St. Augustine, FL  to their consistently growing tour schedule. These three shows are scheduled for September 15th - 17th. For what was thought to be a "lighter" year, the band now has well over 20 scheduled dates for 2017, and it's dedicated fan base will have yet another opportunity to catch multiple shows. Tickets are scheduled on go on sale this Friday, May 12th at 10:00 PM EST.  For further details and all of the latest Panic updates, head over to the band's official website.

Watch Widespread Panic perform "Postcard" in St. Augustine (2016) here:

Widespread Panic Announces Three-Night Halloween Run In Vegas April 7, 2017 10:59

Photo by Craig Baird: Home Team Photography
While Widespread Panic won't be touring quite as extensively in 2017, there continues to be plenty of opportunities to catch the southern jam veterans on the road.  Following the band's three nights in Milwaukee the week before, Panic will travel to Las Vegas, Nevada for another three-night run on October 27th-29th at the Park Theater.  This will be the band's first Halloween run in Vegas since 2005 and 2006.  Tickets for all three shows go on sale April 14th at 10AM PST via  
Watch Widespread Panic perform "Soul Kitchen" & "Paranoid" from the 2016 Halloween run in Broomfield, CO here:

Celebrating 31 Years Of Widespread Panic [Audio/Video] February 6, 2017 16:02

On this day in 1986, local Georgia musicians John Bell, Michael Houser, Dave Schools, Todd Nance took the stage at The Mad Hatter Ballroom in Athens (GA) for the first official performance as Widespread Panic.  The band was opening for Strawberry Flats, and the show was said to be an Aid For Africa benefit.  Just two years later, the band would release its first album, Space Wrangler, which also featured the addition of Domingo "Sonny" Ortiz (percussion).  Keyboardist John "JoJo" Hermann would be added to the full-time roster in 1992.  Panic suffered the devastating loss in the death of Michael Houser in August of 2002, who was initially replaced by George McConnell, before Jimmy Herring took on the long-term duties as lead guitarist in the fall of 2006.

Since their inception in Athens, Georgia, in 1986, Widespread Panic has risen to elite status among American jam bands. Following in the steps of other Southern rock jam bands such as The Allman Brothers Band, they draw influences from the Southern rock, blues-rock, progressive rock, funk and hard rock genres. They are frequently compared to other jam band "road warriors" such as the Grateful Dead and Phish.  Widely renowned for their live performances, as of 2016, they hold the record for number of sold-out performances at Red Rocks Amphitheatre at 54 and Philips Arena at 20.

Click here to listen to Widespread Panic's first performance via

Watch Widespread Panic's complete show from 03.12.88 in Atlanta here:

Watch post-show footage from Widespread Panic in 1988 here:

Watch Widespread Panic Cover Nirvana's "Lithium" In Broomfield November 2, 2016 11:12

Jam veterans Widespread Panic just wrapped up an unforgettable Halloween run in Colorado, and footage from special occasion is starting to surface.  Halloween season is a time where bands must get as creative as possible, as they know that their counterparts will be doing the same at their respective shows.  This run saw Panic perform a Black Sabbath tune during the encore at eight consecutive shows.  They also included a tune by The Doors during all three nights of the Halloween run in Broomfield.  While Sunday night's "Halloween" performance was full of highlights, the biggest surprise of the night may have come in the form of a cover of Nirvana's "Lithium," which ultimately closed the second set.  Video footage from "Lithium" can be watched below courtesy of YouTube user MrTopdogger.

Watch Widespread Panic perform Nirvana's "Lithium" on 10.30.16 here:

10/30/16 1st Bank Center, Broomfield, CO
1: Waitin' For The Bus > Jesus Just Left Chicago, Happy, Angels on High, Goodpeople, Heaven, Angels Don't Sing The Blues, Hallelujah, Tall Boy, Ain't Life Grand
2: Slippin' Into Darkness*, Machine > Barstools and Dreamers, Vampire Blues, Henry Parsons Died, Beat On The Brat, I Wanna Be Sedated, Chilly Water > I Walk On Guilded Splinters > Bust It Big > Chilly Water, Lithium
E1: Soul Kitchen, Paranoid
E2: Postcard, End Of The Show
[Only 'Lithium'; Last 'Beat On The Brat' - 10/31/03, 882 shows; Last 'Paranoid' - 10/31/87, 2811 shows; Last 'Soul Kitchen' - 10/28/00, 1142 shows]

The String Cheese Incident & Members Of Grateful Dead Announce 'Los Muertos Con Queso' September 26, 2016 14:50

The String Cheese Incident and members of the Grateful Dead have revealed plans for a brand new destination weekend dubbed "Los Muertos Con Queso."  This event will feature three nights of SCI, along with three nights of Los Muertos, a newly formed supergroup featuring Bill Kreutzmann & Bob Weir with Dave Schools, Jeff Chimenti & Tom Hamilton.  Official details on the destination event can be found below via  Stay tuned for future updates on this exciting event!

Los Muertos con Queso is an all-inclusive concert vacation in one of the most beautiful parts of the world. You’ll be whisked from the airport in special Los Muertos con Quesoshuttles and taken to your tropical resort, where your all-inclusive vacation will begin. You’ll experience four unforgettable nights of music on the beach: Bill Kreutzmann & Bob Weir with Dave Schools, Jeff Chimenti and Tom Hamilton (3 nights), The String Cheese Incident (3 nights), The Chris Robinson Brotherhood (1 night), an intimate, acoustic performance by Chris Robinson and Neal Casal, and much more. The Caribbean Sea provides a gorgeous backdrop for these beachfront concerts, with the state-of-the art stage just feet away from the clear blue waters.

The Barceló Maya Beach, an incredible all-inclusive resort, will play host to the concerts. The resort sits on a mile-long stretch of white sandy beach and stunning landscapes, with eight glittering pools across the property. You may reserve a room at the Barceló, or choose to stay at another one of our other carefully selected hotels. With the exception of the Rosewood, which is not considered all-inclusive, each resort features a variety of restaurants, multiple bars and daily activities, all included in your package price. Spend your days lounging by the pool and beach, or explore the nearby towns of Tulum or Playa del Carmen. Partake in exciting off-site adventures, or sleep off the night before and soak up some sun.

Each night, guests staying at the Barceló Maya will walk out of their rooms and take a short stroll to the beach to see the show. If you are staying at one of our other properties, a shuttle will deliver you within feet of the main stage.

For futher details on this event, head over to