Elmore Magazine Review – Bring On The Music

via Elmore Magazine

Recalling an early barroom hair-raiser with Gov’t Mule makes 25 years of incendiary music fly by in a blink. Singer, songwriter, and guitarist Warren Haynes and bassist Allen Woody were doing double duty with Southern icons the Allman Brothers Band at the time. Three years later in 1997, their ferocious trinity with drummer Matt Abts became job number one.

Haynes has since become known for his ability to pull a multi-colored spectrum of melodies from his beefy black sleeve, and play every second of it heartfelt and real. His universal mind, expansive guitar tones and smoked and spiked-molasses voice, and expansive guitar tones, all together ensure it every time.

Long now a quartet with keyboardist Danny Louis, and with bassist Jorgen Carlsson in place of the deceased Woody, Gov’t Mule celebrate their silver jubilee with Bring on the Music – Live at the Capitol Theatre. The options for a 2CD set, two separate vinyl packages, or digital audio are now out, with the 2CD/2DVD (featuring exclusive audio) and Blu-ray bundles arriving July 19th. Thirty-nine songs in total—you’ll find over five hours of music on any of these configurations, and it may seem daunting in scope, but Gov’t Mule never elicit anything less than rapt fascination, and real rock ‘n’ roll release throughout it. So, plan for all 39 songs.

The iconic band covers many of its bases here by buffeting the blues of Blind Willie Johnson with crafty finesse, reigniting the engines of Grand Funk Railroad, covering themselves in thick Pearl Jam, riding the old new wave reggae of the Police, recreating a traditional folk song, stepping into the jazz-fusion pyramid of the Mahavishnu Orchestra, and twirling with the Grateful Dead. But this milestone celebration mostly, rightfully, focuses on the remarkable songs of Warren Haynes and his bandmates. Their anthem “Mule” had to be present in all its relentless, blues-anchored glory. The elevated, lovely soul of “Beautifully Broken” bops until it implodes. “Mr. Man” rages like a Black Sabbath cauldron, intense in attitude, and stoked by Warren Haynes’ ripping guitar. In a most impressive coupling, “Larger Than Life,” the marauding, pouncing cat that it is, slides into the confessional, pleading love song “The Man I Want To Be.” That dichotomy might seem contradictory, but this band is defined by its seamless marriage of feel, no matter the tone, tempo, or source. There’s a beginning, a constant crescendo, and an end to everything they present.

Gov’t Mule’s genre-bending—and blending—succeeds most convincingly in front of an audience. Bring on the Music – Live at the Capitol Theatre documents an illustrious place in their time.

—Tom Clarke