Jo Jo's killer party

Well, it's got my name on it, but I don't think of it as a solo project, says John "Jo Jo" Hermann of his album Smiling Assassin, released this week on the Mississippi-based blues label Fat Possum. "It's a group effort."

Hermann knows group efforts. For the past decade, he has served as keyboardist for the always-communal Widespread Panic, the Athens-based band known for extended improvisational jams. Hermann — who maintains residences in Atlanta and Oxford — also has been jamming with his Mississippi neighbors Luther and Cody Dickinson of the North Mississippi All-Stars since the '80s. It was these occasional collaborations that led to the new album. "I had a bunch of these country-pop songs that I write sometimes, and we just went in and recorded a bunch of them in two-and-a-half days."

The recording sessions became an all-star party. Members of Blue Mountain, the Kudzu Kings and all of Hermann's 'Panic-mates guest on the album. "All the greatest guitar players I know are on this record — and me," he says.

For his two-night CD release party, set in the intimate confines of the Northside Tavern, Hermann says he plans to play guitar and keyboards, and he'll be joined by the Dickinsons and Crumpy Edwards of Bloodkin. In addition, the tiny Tavern is expected to overflow with special guests and friends. "I'm hoping we can set up some speakers in the parking lot so people can party outside," he says.

As with any Widespread Panic-related event, taping will not be discouraged. "If they have a recorder, we won't stop 'em," he says. "We'll just be having a good ol' juke joint jam, so ya never know who all might show up. And we'll play 'till they turn the lights out."

John Hermann's CD release party is April 12 and 13 at Northside Tavern.??