One Fat Sucka – Umphrey’s McGee
Street Gold 34632-2
Umphrey’s McGee is carving out a niche on the
jambands circuit, and this disc indicates some good
reasons for that. The band has its own brand of
spacey, synth-laced jam-rock, and it knows its way
around it. This disc shows off impressive playing for
a live disc (though the recording is a tad murky).
A few cuts feature vocals, but concise songs
don’t seem to be on this band’s agenda. Instead, they
deal in moody vamps, jazz/funk grooves and thorny,
dissonant textures. Guitarists Brendan Bayliss and
Jake Cinninger are quite capable, though not
distinctive, soloists in the vein of Fripp or
circa-‘91 Anastasio. Most of the cuts appear to be
structured, but two are colorful open jams featuring famed
guest digeridooist Graham Wiggins.
Umphrey’s does what it sets out to do quite well, although
there is some room for improvement. Although the compositions
visit intriguing places, at times the lyrics and
vocals are nondescript. The rhythm section holds down
a solid groove, but they often get locked into static
vamps. And, though this band does have its own sound,
sometimes (especially in Phil’s Farm’s combination
of crunch-rock riffs and ironic country), Phish influences predominate.
Those reservations being stated, this is a fine release which
presents a talented group of musicians both honing and exploring
their own textures and idiom. The fusiony Professor Wormbog and
the aptly titled welcome contrast of Sweetness are
the highlights for this listener. This disc further leaves
little doubt that these guys are a reliable choice for
a jamband fan’s ticket money.