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Jam Central Station 6.21.14: Umphrey's McGee - Similar Skin
Posted by Jeff Modzelewski on 06.21.2014

Umphrey's McGee have been riding a huge wave of popularity over the past few years. They're without a doubt one a top band in the jam and festival scene, they've been branching out into new areas, and they have a style that sets them apart from the masses. Like all jam bands, Umphrey's success is attributed in a large part to their live performances. Unlike most jam bands, however, their studio albums have also typically gotten high praise. They hit a bit of a bump on their last album, unfortunately, as Death By Stereo was considered a weak effort that was disjointed and didn't fit together well. They returned to the studio for Similar Skin, their first release on their own record label. Is this a return to form for Umphrey's?

The album is a mix of new and old material, with some reworking of the older songs. What's surprising is that, for an album from a jam band, very few of the songs include the instrumental sections the band is known for. The first few tracks are all under 4 minutes. That doesn't hurt them, however. "The Linear," "Cut The Cable" and "Hourglass" are all very strong offerings that don't need to be supported by extended jams to be great songs. It's actually refreshing that the band let the songs stand on their own. These three songs also help set the mood for the album. At it's heart this is a rock album, and Umphrey's shows that they can be a great rock band, with strong hooks, riffs, and guitar solos. Both Brendan Bayliss and Jake Cinninger are exceptional guitarists able to add in powerful fills or solos, and the opening tracks also show off Brendan's strength as a lyricist. The opening lines of "Cut The Cable" make you pay attention to what he's trying to say, and the guitar riff that follows is like a jolt of lightning. The only complaint on the opening tracks is that they are almost too short, not giving you a chance to really dive into the songs. I'm guessing that will be fixed with live performances.

"No Diablo" is a real departure for the band, with a much more Beatles-esque pop feel to it. It's another example of solid songwriting, showing that Umphrey's doesn't need crazy solos to make a song work. The next two songs show again how the band mixes the songwriting with the amazing musicianship. Both "Similar Skin" and "Puppet String" are songs that include good hooks, great lyrics, and examples of what the band can do musically. "Puppet String" in particular is a powerful track, with the whole song building up and pulling back until it reaches the climax in the final chorus. Despite the fact that this is one of the songs on the album with some good Umphrey's history, they still manage to make it sound fresh for the studio.

Jake took over with "Little Gift," a real 80's rock radio throwback song. It's another great example of how Umphrey's can take a musical style that is often derided (80's radio rock in this case) and make it great. By adding some depth to the style they really turn it into their own. Both "Educated Guess" and "Loose Ends" trade in the hooks for a more meandering sound. ITeh band does riff rock so well that it's almost a disappointment when they move away from it, but these songs work well without the hooks. They move back to the riff with 'Hindsight," a song that sounds like it should be on the most recent Ozzy Osbourne album with the crunch that Jake brings. The album closes with "Bridgeless," a song that's been hanging around for 10 years. It's the only song on the album that has the detailed song structure that the band is known for, but it still manages to fit in well with the rest of the album due to it's strong rock roots. The band had to do at least one "prog-rock" song on the album, and "Bridgeless" fits in well with what is essentially a rock album from the band.

Front to back, "Similar Skin" might by my favorite studio album from Umphrey's McGee. Not only will Umphrey's fans appreciate the tight arrangement of the songs, fans far outside of the jam band scene can latch on to the great riffs and songwriting of this album. I don't know that Umphrey's has much of a desire (or much of a need) to break into the modern rock scene, but this album could be a great bridge for that if they so choose. This is one of the most impressive studio albums from a jam band that I've heard in a long time, and it's one of the few where the studio versions of the songs hold up well to the live versions.

String Cheese Incident announce Suwannee Hulaween
The String Cheese Incident will return to The Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park for another Hulaween festival. The festival will run October 31-November 2, and String Cheese Incident will perform all three nights. They will be joined by Thievery Corp., Big gigantic, Beats Antique, The New deal, and many others. Tickets are on sale now.

My Morning Jacket announce One Big Holiday
My Morning Jacket will return to the Hard Rock Hotel in Riviera Maya Mexico for their One Big Holiday destination event. The event will take place from January 31-February 4, and My Morning Jacket will perform three full shows. They will be joined by the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, Dr. dog, The War On drugs, Dawes, and others.

Railroad Earth announce Hangtown Halloween Ball
Railroad Earth announced their 4th annual Hangtown Halloween Ball event. The event will take place from October 24-26 in Placerville, CA. They'll be performing all three nights, and they'll be joined by The Meter Men, Leftover Salmon, The Jeff Austin Band, The Motet, and many others. Roalroad Earth will also be performing in Atlanta, GA for a 3-night NYE run this year.

Bassnectar announces Bass Center event
Bassnectar will be heading to Madison Square Garden on October 4 for one of his Bass Center events. No word on other artists at this time, but it should be a full day event.

Umphrey's McGee announce 5-night NYE run
Umphrey's McGee will be ringing in the new year with a 5-night run in Atlanta, GA at The Tabernacle. They will be performing on December 30-January 3 at the venue.

Telluride Bluegrass Festival
June 19-22, 2014
Telluride, CO
Performers include: Sam Bush Band, Bela Fleck & The Colorado Symphony, Brandi Carlile, Yonder Mountain String Band, The Del McCoury Band, Leftover Salmon, Greensky Bluegrass, and many others.

Firefly Music Festival
June 19-22, 2014
Dover, DE
Performers include: Foo Fighters, Outkast, Jack Johnson, Imagine Dragons, Pretty Lights, The Lumineers, Weezer, Girl Talk, Tegan and Sara, and many others.

Electric Forest
June 26-29, 2014
The Double JJ Ranch & Resort
Rothbury, MI
Performers include: The String Cheese Incident (3 nights), STS9 (2 nights), Ms. Lauryn Hill, Stephen Marley, EOTO, Anders Osborne, The Revivalists, Nahko & Medicine for the People, Rising Apalachia, Zedd, and many others.

High Sierra
July 3-6, 2014
Quincy, CA
Performers include: Widespread Panic, STS9, Ms. Lauryn Hill, Beats Antique, Trampled by Turtles, The Chris Robinson Brotherhood, and many more to be announced

July 17-20, 2014
Sunshine Daydream Memorial Park
Terra Alta, WV
Performers include: Shpongle, Beats Antique, EOTO, Conspirator, Zilla, vibesquad, Janover 7 Resunator, Cosby Sweater, Aliver Hall, Broccoli Samurai, and many others.

Northwest String Summit
July 17-21, 2014
Horning's Hideout
North Plains, OR
Performers include: Yonder Mountain String Band, The Motet, Steep Canyon Rangers, Fruition, Dead Winter Carpenters, The Rumpke Mountain Boys, and many others

July 18-20, 2014
Waterfront Park
Louisville, KY
Performers include: Outkast, Jack White, Beck, The Replacements, Ray Lamontagne, Band of Horses, Nickel Creek, Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings, Gary Clark Jr., Trampled by Turtles, JJ Grey & Mofro, and many others

July 23-27, 2014
Floyd, VA
Performers include: Ben Harper & Charlie Musselwhite, Ms. Lauryn Hill, ray LaMontagne, Thievery Corporation, Ziggy Marley, Michael Franti & Spearhead, Buddy Guy, Robert Randolph & The Family Band, and many others

Gratifly Festival
July 24-27
Westminster, SC
Performers include: Papadosio, Opilio, Gratifly Symphony, Earphunk, Earthcry, The Human Experience, Pigeons Playing Ping Pong, and many others.

Gathering of the Vibes
July 31-August 1, 2014
Seaside Park
Bridgeport, CT
Performers include: Widespread Panic, John Fogerty, moe., Umphrey's McGee, The Disco Biscuits featuring Mickey Hart & Bill Kreutzmann, Ziggy Marley, Dumpstaphunk, and many others.

August 1-3, 2014
Grant Park
Chicago, IL
Performers include: Eminem, Outkast, Kings of Leon, Arctic Monkeys, White Denim, Broken Bells, Lorde, The Avett Brothers, Forster the People, The Head & The Heart, Trombone Shorty, Chromeo, and many others.

Werk Out Festival
August 7-9, 2014
Legend Valley
Thornville, OH
Performers include: The Werks (3 nights), Papadosio (2 nights), Emancipator, Future Rock Zoogma, Dopapod, Zach Deputy, and many others.

Outside Lands
August 8-10, 2014
Golden Gate Park
San Francisco, CA
Performers include: Kanye West, Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, The Killers, The Flaming Lips, Spoon, Tedeschi Trucks Band, Chromeo, John butler Trio, Nicki Bluhm & The Gramblers, and many others

Arise Music Festival
August 8-10, 2014
Sunrise Ranch
Loveland, CO
Performers include: Galactic, Grateful Grass, Nahko & Medicine for the People, and many others

Peach Music Festival
August 14-17, 2014
Montage Mountain
Scranton, PA
Performers include: Allman Brothers Band (2 nights), Bob Weir & RatDog, Trey Anastasio Band, Tedeschi Trucks Band, Lotus, JJ Grey & Mofro, The Revivalists, Dopapod, The Infamous Stringdusters, papadosio, and others.

August 15-17, 2014
Wellston, MI
Performers include: Greensky Bluegrass, Dirty Dozen Brass Band, Steppin' In It, The Ragbirds, and many others.

Summer Set Music & Camping Festival
August 15-17
Somerset, Wi
Performers include: Bassnectar, Umphrey's McGee, Kaskade, Disco Biscuits, Wu-Tang Clan, Big Gigantic, Chromeo, Cherub, and many others

Camp Barefoot
August 21-23, 2014
Bartow, WV
Performers include: Beats Antique, Papadosio, Lettuce, Kyle Hollingsworth Band performing a tribute to Motown, Dopapod, Kung Fu, The Motet, Zach Deputy, and many others.

August 29-31, 2014
Snow Ridge Ski Resort
Turin, NY
Performers include: moe. (3 headlining nights), Lotus, O.A.R. Les Claypool's Duo de Twang, Soulive, Twiddle, Aqueous, and others.

North Coast Music Festival
August 29-31, 2014
Union Park
Chicago, IL
Performers include: Bassnectar, Kid cudi, STS9, Snoop Dogg, Dada Life, Zeds Dead, Dr. Dog, The New Deal, and many others.

Lockin' Music Festival
September 4-7, 2014
Arrington, VA
Performers include: Furthur, The String Cheese Incident, Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers,The Allman Brothers Band, Phil Lesh & Friends, Widespread Panic, Umphrey's McGee, Wilco, Bob Weir & Ratdog, and many others.

Phases of the Moon Festival
September 11-14, 2014
Kennekuk County Park, IL
Performers include: Widespread Panic (2 nights), Tedeschi Trucks Band, Gov't Mule, Galactic, Leftover Salmon, Chris Robinson Brotherhood, Robert Randolph and the Family Band, and many others.

Catskill Chill
September 5-7, 2014
Camp Minglewood
Hancock, NY
Performers include: Yonder Mountain String Band with Allie Kral, Lettuce, Shpongle, Karl denson's Tiny Universe, Papadosio, Dopapod, Particle, The Heavy Pets, and many others.

Grand Point North Festival
September 13-14, 2014
Waterfront Park
Burlington, VT
Performers include: Grace Potter & The Nocturnals (headlining both nights), Lake Street Dive, Trampled by Turtles, The Devil Makes Three, Dr. John, Caroline Rose, and many others.

Harvest Music Festival
October 16-18, 2014
Mulberry Mountain
Ozark, AR
Performers include: Yonder Mountain String Band with Jerry Douglas, Trampled By Turtles, Railroad Earth, Lettuce, The Devil Makes Three, Dumpstaphunk, Elephant Revival, Cornmeal, and many others

Hangtown Halloween Ball
October 24-26, 2014
Placerville, CA
Performers include: Railroad Earth (3 nights), The Meter Men, Leftover Salmon, The Jeff Austin Band, The motet, and many others

Suwannee Hulaween
October 31-November 2, 2014
Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park
Live Oak, FL
Performers include: String Cheese Incident (3 nights), Thievery Corp., Big Gigantic, Beats Antique, EOTO, Greensky Bluegrass, and many others

Bear Creek Music & Art Festival
November 13-16, 2014
Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park
Live Oak, FL
Performers include: Umphrey's McGee, Lettuce, Dumpstaphunk, The New Mastersounds, Break Science, Sister Sparrow & The Dirty Birds, Turkuaz, The Main Squeeze, Tauk, and many others

Strings & Sol
December 11-15, 2014
Puerto Morales, Mexico
Performers include: Yonder Mountain String Band, Railroad Earth, Leftover Salmon, The Infamous Stringdusters, and Greensky Bluegrass

Jam Cruise
January 6-11, 2015
Departs from Miami, FL

Tropical Throe.down
January 9-13, 2015
Grand Lido Resort
Negril, Jamaica
Performers include: moe., Floodwood, Conehead Buddha Horns, and Ha Ha The Moose.

Island Exodus
January 14-18, 2015
Grand Lido Negril
Negril, Jamaica
Gov't Mule will host the event

One Big Holiday
January 31-Februar 4, 2015
Hard Rock Hotel
Riviera Maya, Mexico
my Morning Jacket will host the event

Thanks again for stopping by. I'll be back next week with more jam. Until then, check me out on Facebook and Twitter for up to the minute concert announcements. Until next week, Jam On!


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