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moe. Breaks Out of 'Jam'

BY GREG STORMS
THE ITHACAN
JANUARY 25, 2001

When the Mason-Dixon line was drawn, it was decided (because back then our leaders really knew how to plan for a country) that all those who would follow the political doctrines of Phish would stay in the North and those who dug on the grooves of Widespread Panic could do it in the blistering south.

Then, suddenly, in the ‚90s, with the demise of the Grateful Dead (who were the only ones, mind you, who really kept the peace, allowing for brief cross-border visits for the two regional dominators), the whole country was thrust into turmoil. Upstart bands like String Cheese Incident, Dave Matthews and any number of Grateful Dead-offshoots had free reign. Chances are, if a band had a wacky, complicated name, you were in for some jamming.

One of these feisty upstarts was moe. After two independent releases, the Northeast-based jam/funk/rock/jazz group went major with the Sony 550-released „No Doyš in 1996. Since then, it has released two studio albums and last year‚s live „L,š all the while climbing the ranks of jamdom through expansive live shows, hitting a high note with last year‚s three-day moe.down.

moe.‚s new album, „Ditherš (on Fatboy Records) is a strong brick in the moe. wall. The opening track, „Captain America,š has every element on display. With DJ Logic scratching underneath a steady rock beat, moe.‚s three frontmen, guitarist vocalists Al Schnier and Chuck Garvey and bassist/vocalist Rob Derhak, flesh out an excellent harmony structure.

As on „Captain America,š every song on the album has room for at least one solo breakdown, whether from the three leads or a guest keyboardist, but it‚s rarely too long before the band breaks back into song central.

The members of moe. seem to have their priorities straight on this record ųafter writing good enough songs to jam to, leave the bulk of the jamming for concerts. A perfect example of this is „Faker,š a piano-based ballad with a sing-along the chorus „I am a faker/pretending alongš ų it‚s a song that stands well by itself, but could provide easy opportunity for soloing in concert.

Another standout, a Tom Petty-inspired jaunt called „Can‚t Seem To Find,š takes a country twinge with its Petty-strained vocals („I know you like hanging around/cause we like the same things--I like hanging around.š) and gorgeous harmonica melody. It‚s a lovely little bit of songwriting.

The lengthy jam gets more than equal representation on „Dither,š though. „So Longš and „Waterš both hit seven minutes, with loose arrangements stuck somewhere between rock and ballad that give way to ample jam-time.

All in all, „Ditherš is a surprisingly accessible album for a band labeled restrictively under the „jam,š something moe. is obviously searching to dissuade with this record. moe. traverses the paths of all the genres they‚re reputed to hold ų jazz, rock, country ų with a fluidity that only the most professional of groups have a grasp on.

The album‚s superior production quality, especially in vocal arrangements, doesn‚t hurt matters either. „Ditherš may mean even greater things for moe. if it hits the right mark with a bigger audience.

Who knows, maybe they‚ll get a large Northeast fiefdom, or maybe even a whole region to themselves.

 

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