Not always does a band’s origin story give as much insight or ages as well as Miss Kitty’s Lounge does for Widespread Panic.  It’s vital that a band evolves over time if it wishes for a long and interesting career.  Over three decades in, and playing to rabidly devoted crowds in the multiple thousands all over the country, it’s more than safe to say these Georgia jamband kings have done that.

When the rabid devotion started was at the turn of the 1990s, partly with the album that would spring from these demos; the demos, at the time, leading to the band’s initial contract with the Capricorn label, and the band’s self-titled label debut in 1991.  This 14-song, John Keane-produced set is the flashpoint of everything that followed.  It’s also must have for any fan, faithful or curious.

The incentives arrive early and often: the jag-in-time jangle of “A of D” opens the door wide.  The revenge tale, “C. Brown,” ramps up the record’s first of several glorious jams.  And there’s “Pigeons,” with the conspicuously sharp symbiosis of Panic’s rhythm section- bassist David Schools and drummer Todd Nance- showing skill and cohesion way beyond its youthful age.  It’s true of the group as a whole, even when welcoming guests such as Randall Bramlett or Phish’s Page McConnell.

For Capricorn, there are ragged edges that would be trimmed up.  Some surfaces that would be polished.  Yet, these jams have so much distinct personality within the continuity of both the song and the overall approach of these young firebrands, as early renditions they are worthy beasts: John Bell’s Southern Gothic vocal volleying between high and lonesome and a junkyard growl; the band, too, feeling feisty, even angry within the angular texture of “Love Tractor.”

Sure, there are the usual suspects as influences- the Grateful Dead and The Allman Brothers Band- but more often this is the snapping whip of a raw and precocious band who should be learning lessons at this time in its development, but seems instead to be teaching its share.  As importantly, it’s another opportunity to hear Michael Houser’s inspired guitar-playing, and the aforementioned Nance; both of whom left this world far too soon.  Highly recommended.