Gov't Mule explores new territory
Donna Isbell Walker , [email protected] 2:30 p.m. ET April 18, 2017
Gov’t Mule has been around for more than two decades now, and the band’s latest album, “Revolution Come … Revolution Go,” manages to sound at once both classic and brand new.
That was the intent, said guitarist Warren Haynes, who co-founded Gov’t Mule in 1994 with the late Allen Woody, one of his Allman Brothers bandmates.
“Since we made it through our 20th anniversary, we’ve been telling everybody that the next record was gonna be partially going back to the beginning and partially going into directions we’ve never gone before,” Haynes said in a recent phone interview. “And I think it’s a little bit of both. There definitely are some some songs and some moments that remind me of the early stuff. And then there are some of the things that I think are new and different for us. We’re very happy with it.”
One of the newer musical flavors comes on “Sarah, Surrender,” the last song Haynes wrote for the album, which comes out June 9.
“I felt like we were missing one song, and when I wrote that, I thought, ‘Let’s see what happens when Gov’t Mule interprets this song,’ and it seemed like the missing piece of the puzzle.”
The resulting song has a deeply soulful flavor that Haynes describes as “Al Green meets Curtis Mayfield.”
Also new for the band was the country-folk vibe of “Traveling Tune,” which is most obviously influenced by the Allman Brothers Band.
“But I think there’s even a little Marshall Tucker Band feeling in there. And that’s something that obviously we love, but have never really explored until now,” said Haynes, who plays the Peace Center with Gov’t Mule April 23.
The album was recorded on Election Day, and some of the songs address the political and social climate in the months leading up to the November election.
“We’ve been kind of following the whole political thing and just watching the divide, which is really stronger than anything I’ve seen, definitely in my adult life,” he said.
The opening track, “Stone Cold Rage,” gets straight to the point, in a sonic fury of screaming guitars and lyrical anguish that culminates in the repeated wail, “Mama’s gonna be a martyr.”
That song, “from an observer’s standpoint, just (acknowledges) that whichever side won, the other one was going to be be really angry. And that’s just kind of where we are right now, so I felt like it was important to have a lot of the other, kind of positive message songs that talk about everybody being in everything together, and how we have to work together to get out of it. It almost takes on a ’60s positive vibe, in a way, how it’s up to us to make things how we all feel it should be.”
But “Stone Cold Rage” isn’t the only work of guitar virtuosity on the new album.
There’s “Burning Point,” with a guest appearance by Jimmie Vaughan, and “Easy Times,” whose intro calls to mind Jimi Hendrix’s “Little Wing.”
Gov’t Mule recorded the album in Austin, which inspired the band to invite Vaughan to add his formidable guitar chops to the song. In the beginning, “Burning Point” felt more like New Orleans, but over time, the song moved closer to the vibe of Texas. When Vaughan came aboard, that cemented the Lone Star flavor.
“Easy Times,” on the other hand, was inspired both by Mayfield and by the “clean rhythm guitar” that was Hendrix’s trademark.
“I was definitely feeling that sort of (Hendrix) vibe. I went back and replayed that intro stuff because the sound that we recorded it with originally, I thought was a little too dirty, and I wanted to get that clear sound that kind of works in songs like ‘Little Wing’ and ‘Angel.’”
Last time Gov’t Mule played the Peace Center, in 2015, Greenville’s Marcus King Band opened the show. Since then, King and his band have gained national attention for their bluesy sound.
Haynes has been both a fan of and mentor to King, and he produced the Marcus King Band’s self-titled second album, released last year.
King’s now 21, but he was still a teenager when Haynes first heard him play.
“When I heard him, I think the thing that struck me the most was the amount of maturity and his musicality for such a young age,” Haynes said. “I haven’t heard a young guitar player play with that much maturity since I first heard Derek Trucks. But then he also has this beautiful voice that is apparent as soon as he opens his mouth. And then you add to that the songwriting, which is just extremely beyond his years, and they’re a great band. They’re all wonderful musicians. We had a really great time recording the record, and every time I hear them, they’re growing leaps and bounds. I think the future is extremely bright for those guys.”
YOU CAN GO
Who: Gov’t Mule with the Eric Krasno Band
When: 7 p.m. April 23
Where: Peace Center
How much: $35-$45
For more: www.peacecenter.org