“Crippled Inside” / Widespread Panic
I don’t know about you, but I found the recent worldwide Live Earth concerts to be a little, well…disconcerting. I know we need to save the planet and all, but still -- did those shows really make a single person more environmentally aware? I bet they wasted more energy than they saved, in the long run.
Nevertheless, I’m not opposed to do-good causes, when they’re done right, and it seems like this Instant Karma: The Campaign to Save Darfur has been done right. Trust Amnesty International and Yoko Ono to play their cards shrewdly. Cashing in on John Lennon's songwriting genius makes complete sense if it's for a political cause. Okay, it’s a little annoying to hear Avril Lavigne warble “Imagine,” but Green Day doing “Working Class Hero,” Matisyahu rapping away on “Watching the Wheels,” or Los Lonely Boys rocking out on “Whatever Gets You Through The Night” (really, can anybody ruin that song?) make it all worthwhile.
I love it when a tribute album turns me on to a band I’ve never heard before. Though it’s only available on the iTunes bonus tracks, Widespread Panic’s version of “Cripple Inside” did just that. It was great to get a jolt of southern jam band energy after all the slick pop and Important Anthem Rock performances on this record (R.E.M. no longer counts as a southern jam band in my book). Lennon’s original recording of “Crippled Inside” already had a nice jangly honky-tonk vibe; Widespread Panic has taken that and added bluegrass picking and pedal steel -- I even hear a little washboard in there -- and then let it swing like the roadhouse classic it was always meant to be.
Sure, Widespread Panic’s lead singer sounds more like a cracker-barrel philosopher than the snide, bitter pundit Lennon was. But somehow it works this way, too. “You can shine your shoes and wear a suit / You can comb your hair and looks quite cute” – when Lennon sang that, he was a long-haired dropout sneering at conformists; when WP sings it, it comes off as a country boy poking fun at a city slicker. You can almost imagine him pausing to spit tobacco juice between verses. “You can go to church and sing a hymn / And judge me by the color of my skin” – these lines sound even more relevant when sung by somebody with a southern twang. And the chorus just crackles with down-home wisdom: “Well now you know that your cat has nine lives / Nine lives to itself / But you only got one / And a dog’s life ain’t fun / Mamma take a look outside.”
Anyway, I apologize in advance for shilling a track that can only be bought on iTunes. (Must be my secret crush on Steve Jobs leading me astray.) But check it out if you’re iTuned in; otherwise, head over to www.widespreadpanic.com and check out some other tunes by these guys. That’s what I plan to do.