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Published: 2012/09/11
by Dave Weckstein

Jimmy Herring Band, Martyrs’, Chicago, IL – 8/31

Photos by Norman Sands

There’s a reason nobody moves when Jimmy Herring plays his guitar. Momentarily they become transfixed to his fingers furiously flowing over frets in a manner that many can’t comprehend. For more than a minute they are dazed to the spectacle they are witnessing. Such was the case for a sold out end of summer stopover at Martyrs’ in Chicago. Solid rock is what was crafted by the Jimmy Herring Band and the intimate setting lent itself well to creating an even more familiar feel to the evening.

Many patrons who I spoke with were thankful and shocked to get a chance to experience his music in a cozy venue given his broad appeal with his Widespread Panic fan base. He easily could have filled a place three times the size. With fellow Panic members left down south as they gear up coming off hiatus for a New Years run, I was curious to see how Jimmy let his particularly well groomed hair down in the absence of the usual suspects.

The arrangement of the current touring band is drummer Jeff Sipe, bassist Neil Fountain, and keyboardist Matt Slocum. Americana, progressive rock, and jazz notes all spewed from the stage in a cascade of sound. They provided the backing and structure for Jimmy to let his guitar do all the talking that was needed. Most of the setlist promoted his newly released album Subject to Change Without Notice though a few covers were mixed in nicely. A jazzy blues influenced registered in the band’s sound as they eloquently demonstrated Jeff Beck’s “Sophie” which one observer said was the first time played this tour. The Beatles “A Day In the Life” was pulled out in the latter stages of the show before the band played homage to their southern roots with Ray Charles’ “Georgia On My Mind.”

The evening was a welcome reward for those mindful enough to avoid the perils of dub step that drummed only blocks away. It’s rare to be able to stand so close to such inspired playing and know not many are made in the mold of Jimmy Herring.

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