With time spent as Duane Allman's replacement in the Allman Brothers Band and as lead guitarist for Phil Lesh and Friends, Warren Haynes has become a hero to the jam-band set. And rightly so. Haynes has combined blues and psychedelia more effectively than anyone this side of the 1960s, when folks like Clapton and the aforementioned Allman were all the rage. But with both of these big-name bands, Haynes was just a part of the ensemble. Gov't Mule is more Haynes' baby than anyone else's.
That's not to take anything away from the other two members of this blues-rock power trio, which draws heavily upon the great psychedelic blues trios of yesteryear such as Cream and the Jimi Hendrix Experience. Original bassist Allen Woody is also familiar to Allman fans, and drummer Matt Abts has proven a perfect anchor. The group sounds as stellar as ever on its most recent album, 2001's The Deep End Vol. 1. An impressive feat, considering the band's fate was up in the air during the recording of the album. When Woody went out in true rock-star style -- he was found dead in a hotel room in the summer of 2000 -- the band lost more than a bassist. With both Gov't Mule and the Allman Brothers, Woody had been Haynes' collaborator for more than a decade. Rather than find a replacement straight away, the survivors instead filled The Deep End with a fistful of the finest bassists in the land, each contributing to a song. Flea of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Mike Gordon of Phish, John Entwhistle of the Who, Jack Bruce of Cream, and Bootsy Collins of Parliament/Funkadelic all chipped in tracks. Volume two of the two-part series, to be released soon though preorders are already being taken on the band's website, includes songs with Phil Lesh and Les Claypool, among others.
Of course, when out on the road, Haynes and Abts cannot take along a coterie of the world's greatest bassists. Oteil Burbridge filled Woody's shoes originally, though most recently the bass job has gone to Dave Schools. Both of the bassists list Woody's axes among their equipment.
Gov't Mule puts on a wildly loud, fast-paced rock-'n'-roll show. The group can get a bit too jammed-out at times, with many songs clocking in at nearly half an hour, but when they stick to their blues-rock guns, they are undeniably the best at what they do. Remember, no smoking is allowed in Carefree Theatre, and you must purchase all beverages in the lobby; sling back a few before the show starts so you don't miss anything. For those who have seen Haynes with the Allmans or Lesh, expect something different out of Gov't Mule. While still in the jam-band circle, the Mule is more inclined to hard rock than either of Haynes' other projects. Cream and the Experience would be proud of their modern-day descendant.