CD Review of Traveler’s Rest by Outformation
Recommended if you like
Widespread Panic, Derek Trucks Band, The Allman Brothers Band
Outformation: Traveler’s Rest

Reviewed by Greg M. Schwartz

utformation is a bluesy jam band featuring guitarist Sam Holt, who served for many years as guitar tech for the late, great Michael Houser of Widespread Panic. That influence is all over Traveler’s Rest, the band’s second album, but it also represents a fine continuing effort by Holt to leave the nest and fly on his own. The songs rock with tight arrangements, the vocals are just solid enough and there’s plenty of soulful jamming.

Opening songs “Carnac” and “Dark Severinsen” set the tone with bluesy rock that features strong piano parts, crisp guitars and surging jams. Bassist Grady Upchurch, drummer Lee Schwartz, keyboardist CR Gruver and percussionist Jeff “Birddog” Lane all contribute to a seasoned musical vibe.

“Into My Arms” advances further into Panic turf with an opening organ riff, but Holt’s voice isn’t as gritty as Panic vocalist John Bell’s, so a different vibe is conjured. The jam sounds like it could be right out of a Panic show, but of course there aren’t many bands that can kick down the tasty jams like Widespread Panic. This seems to be where Holt’s bread is buttered, and the “jam” goes down good. There’s some nimble guitar work in the outro jam that shows Holt is a major talent. His playing evokes a hypnotic vibe similar to the style Houser specialized in, while still maintaining a personal flavor.

On “Winds,” the band conjures a Stonesy “Dead Flowers” vibe that could fit right in on Sticky Fingers or Exile in Main Street. The song also features a tasty harmonica solo from Mickey Raphael of Willie Nelson’s Family Band. “Later” has a laid-back vibe that would sound great driving down a country road with the windows down.

“Edgewater” and “SG” get the second half of the disc rocking out with more uptempo southern-tinged blues rock and plenty of melodic jamming from Holt. Crisp, clean production allows all the instruments to really stand out clear in the mix, enabling Holt’s solos to really soar, especially true in “Toy’s Song.”

If the disc-closing title track sounds particularly like Widespread Panic, it’s because the track was co-written between the two bands. The song seems to fade out only to come back with one of the album’s biggest jams, a great way to cap off an album that listeners think has ended. There’s no denying that the Panic influence is indeed widespread on Traveler’s Rest. But it’s a positive influence because it equates to top-notch musicianship, well-written songs that have some strong jamming (as opposed to the many jam band albums that lack strong songwriting), and lots of bluesy soul oozing from every track.

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