For his solo debut, Widespread Panic’s John “JoJo” Hermann hops up a guitar, some “cowboy chords” and a backing band that includes the North Mississippi All Stars’ Dickinson brothers. Less greasy, funky, and lighter (in more ways than just skin color) than most of Oxford, Mississippi’s Fat Possum roster, Hermann’s offering makes sense in much the same way as does the connection between tie-dyed-in-the-wool hippie jam bands and hardcore Sam Bush-league bluegrass rave-ups.
Drawing on his Mississippi roots, Hermann’s songs blend blues, country and rock for a not altogether incendiary but profoundly pleasant deep-fried swamp-boogie pop-jam. This self-proclaimed “Holly Springs sound” will find itself at home in caravans of Phish folk, Ultimate Frisbee campgrounds, and wafting out the open doors of roots-rock slackers across the country in the muggy buggy summer, the season Smiling Assassin conjures so well.
Guest musicians include Oxford neighbor Cary Hudson of Blue Mountain blowing harp on a tune and fiddling on the title cut, and Widespread Panic’s John Bell lending lung power to the closer, a good and raunchy version of Doc Pomus’ “Lonely Avenue”. “Abilene” oozes a dazy heat-stroked groove; “Daisy Mae” jumps and grinds with cheeky humor. “Lazy Bum” swings New Orleans style, proving that while Todd Nance and Luther Dickinson lay down mean lead guitar throughout, and bass and drums are thick as gravy, it is Hermann’s jumpin’ piano and keyboard that are fit to lead the band.