Gov’t Mule works it heavy and hard
Warren Haynes earned his status as James Browns successor the hardest-working man in show biz by playing as a member of the Allman Brothers Band, Phil Lesh & Friends, and the group he leads, Govt Mule. The 46-year-old singer and guitarist dropped the Phil & Friends gig from his rotation a few years ago, and if he were to give notice to his brothers in the Allmans, he might still qualify as the hardest-working musician going. In Govt Mule alone, Haynes pulls a mighty load.Last Sunday, Haynes turned in an effort that made the Govt Mule show perhaps the finest night in the year-and-a-half existence of Aspens Belly Up, and one of the most satisfying musical experiences Ive had. Effort is a carefully chosen word here. Onstage, Haynes sweats way more than he smiles; when he does allow a grin, it is usually a small one, a reward to himself after yet another intense, lengthy guitar solo. Unlike other guitar greats to emerge from the jam-band world Trey Anastasio of Phish would be the best example Haynes isnt having lighthearted fun up there. Govt Mules music is no walk in a sun-soaked park filled with kids kicking hacky-sacks. Haynes grimaces and works the strings. Govt Mule is very much a band; when founding bassist Allen Woody died in 2000, Haynes and drummer Matt Abts took three years to name Andy Hess as Woodys replacement. (They also added keyboardist Danny Louis, turning the power trio into a power quartet.) They wanted to make sure they got the new band dynamics right. But it is Haynes band: At Belly Up, he did all the singing, played virtually all the solos, commanded all the attention. That weight on his shoulders is reflected in the music. Sundays show opened on the light note of Thats What Love Will Make You Do, then slipped into the darkness of Banks of the Deep End, a soul-baring song about the death of Allen Woody, the Mules founding bassist. The show continually bounced between hope and despair. Ill Be the One, an almost folk-feeling song Haynes wrote for his wife (who was in attendance) was a gorgeous statement of fidelity and romance; Slackjaw Jezebel, which followed, is the polar opposite, a kiss-off to a woman who brings nothing good. The quintessential example of balancing the extremes, both emotional and sonic, came in an instrumental cover of Lively Up Yourself. The Mules version retained the upbeat sentiment of Bob Marleys original except for the instrumental interludes that slipped a touch of Black Sabbath into the tune. Other cover tunes came from the sweeter side: U2s One, the Box Tops 1967 hit, The Letter. The bands newfound love of reggae the encore was a reggaefied take on their well-known Soulshine added another light element. But what stood out, thanks to Haynes presence, were the heavier segments, like the Mules Bad Little Doggie, with its ongoing refrain, Fallen down, fallen down.When Michael Goldberg opened Belly Up, in January 2005, there were many who thought that a top-notch rock club didnt have a chance in Aspen, with its graying demographic. Goldberg had a plan, though, to book name acts that would make Belly Up a destination for concertgoers. For this night, at least, that vision was fulfilled, as many of the fans came from out of state to attend the show.Odds are very good that Aspen is now on their musical map.Stewart Oksenhorns e-mail address is email@example.com
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