have a reputation for making music as consistently honest, organic and daring
as Gov’t Mule. Now the enduring group
fronted by visionary singer-guitarist Warren Haynes returns with their first
album in four years - their Blue Note Records debut Shout!, a breath-taking, exploratory double-disc set to be released
on September 24.
puts a spotlight on the songs and the way that we interpret them, which hinges
on the unique chemistry we’ve developed as a band,” explains Haynes, who along
with Mule co-founder and drummer Matt
Abts, multi-instrumentalist Danny Louis and bassist Jorgen Carlsson charted Shout!’s adventurous contours.
Shout!’s second disc shines a beam on a
guest list of famed interpreters Elvis Costello, Dr. John, Ben Harper, Toots
Hibbert, Glenn Hughes, Jim James, Myles Kennedy, Dave Matthews, Grace Potter, Vintage Trouble’s Ty Taylor and Steve
Winwood, who each delivered an alternate vocal performance of one of the first
disc’s new Gov’t Mule tunes.
done this before, which is exciting,” says Haynes, “but it’s even more exciting
actually listening to these artists sing our songs. Their performances bring
new ideas, energy and sometimes even different meanings to every number.”
Plus Shout! offers some of the most extraordinary
playing in Gov’t Mule’s rich,
sonically colorful history. And the album’s incredible scope ranges from the
suite-like epic “Bring on the Music” to the snarling punk rock anthem “Funny
Little Tragedy” to the soul-reggae testifier “Scared to Live.”
inventive and incendiary musical performances throughout both discs spring from
the jazz-like philosophy and creative language the Mule’s members have developed together. They’re the rare rock ‘n’
roll group with an improvisational heartbeat, which allows all four musicians
to expand on the songs’ themes in non-formulaic ways. Such quality
distinguishes the finest jazz, blues and rock recordings of the ‘50s and ‘60s,
but is largely absent in modern music.
On Shout! it’s audible from the ground up -
starting with the Technicolor propulsion of the Abts-Carlsson rhythm section.
Their flexible interplay in the studio and on stage ( where both musicians amp
up their already aggressive, freewheeling approach to providing the sonic
foundation of the band) is essential to Gov’t Mule’s reputation as a living,
breathing ensemble. Drummer Abts has the courage and the chops to extrapolate
with the other band members, pushing, pulling and accenting his rhythms as each
performance evolves. And while Carlsson’s bass always keeps its essential
snarl, he’s among the few players in modern rock that varies his tone and
approach to best serve each song.
Louis’ primary role in Gov’t Mule is
keyboardist, his guitar playing has expanded to the point where he often plays
the instrument for a third of the band’s live sets. On Shout! he steps even further into the role of Haynes’ six-string
foil, with their contrasting styles frequently adding yet another dimension to
numbers were cut with Haynes and Louis simultaneously on guitar, including the
romantic “Captured,” which shares a shimmering ebb and flow with classic Neil Young & Crazy Horse.
takes the brash, ringing fret board solo on the Clash-inspired “Funny Little Tragedy.” And he steps up his
contributions as a background singer, adding vocal support to five songs.
of course, remains one of the most formidable guitarists and vocalists of the
modern era, effortlessly cross-pollinating genres and unfurling solos that
broil with passion in his distinctive, signature style.
fans of the Grammy-nominated band
have come to expect nothing less than the virtuosity, intelligence and breadth
that propels Shout!.
Blue Note Records president Don Was, who’s also a Grammy-winning producer and performer, sums up Gov’t Mule’s place in contemporary music: “The Mule holds a unique and lofty berth. They have roots that run real
deep - drawing from the entire history of rock ‘n’ roll going all the way back
to Robert Johnson and the Delta. Yet, despite their mastery of past idioms,
they have managed to rearrange those elements into a whole new thing. So while
the music they make is quite contemporary, I dare say they have deeper roots
than other bands that are creating new music.
to the Blue Note manifesto written by our founder Alfred Lion back in 1939, our
label is dedicated to the recording of ‘authentic music.’ I don’t know how much
more authentic you can be than Gov’t Mule!
It’s an honor to release their records on the Blue Note label. On this new
album, they’ve elevated their songwriting, playing and production values to a
whole new plateau. It’s gonna blow people’s minds!”
Add the word
“again,” because Gov’t Mule has been
blowing minds since their eponymous 1994 debut. That album found the band
boldly transfusing new blood into old-school psychedelic blues-rock at a time
when the genre was largely ignored. Gov’t
Mule’s stylistic grasp has grown inexhaustibly since.
trend in a declining music industry, the band’s fan base, too, has steadily
expanded over the course of fifteen studio and live releases and thousands of
performances - at first in small clubs and theaters, then at halls and major
Today, Gov’t Mule has become a human
encyclopedia of great American music even while adding to that cannon. And
through it all Haynes has served as not only the group’s captain, but as a
beacon of creativity and excellence that inspires fans and fellow musicians.
his nearly two decades in the Mule,
Haynes has been the six-string mainstay and a vocalist for the Allman Brothers Band and the Dead, and performed or recorded with a
diverse array of other artists. In 2011 he made his second in-studio solo
album, the aptly titled Man in Motion,
which paid tribute to his blues roots and found Haynes experimenting with
different guitar tones and effects not traditionally associated with Gov’t Mule.
Shout! came to life in a Connecticut
studio where the band initially regrouped to reignite their collective flame,
and ended up cutting the bulk of the album, with Haynes, his band mates and
longtime Mule collaborator Gordie
Johnson producing various cuts. Three songs - the reggae-based “World Boss,”
the psychedelic dreamscape “Whisper In Your Soul” and the blues-rocker “Done
Got Wise” - were recorded at Jorgen Carlsson’s Rogers Boat Studios in
California, with Carlsson and studio co-owner Steve Holroyd engineering.
tribute to the band’s musical heroes became part of Shout!’s creative game plan. Haynes explains that the brawny “Bring
on the Music” was written to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the break-up of
the classic British blues-rock band Free.
of “Bring on the Music” evokes Free’s memorable
style - especially Haynes’ channeling of the band’s fiery Les Paul guitar
playing of the group’s leader Paul Kossoff.
sinewy number, “How Could You Stoop So Low,” is a nod to the 40th anniversary
of the release of Sly & the Family
Stone’s influential album Fresh
and was co-written by Haynes and Louis, whose rhythm guitar riff is the song’s
spine. The four-piece Mule was able
to recreate Sly’s nine-piece sound with the addition of backing singers Alecia
Chakour and Nigel Hall from Haynes’ solo-project band, and Louis’ heavily funky
Dr. John’s grizzly, incantatory turn on
the alternate version of the tune was the first guest vocal recorded, although
the idea of assembling a cast of great singers to color the songs differently
was indirectly inspired by Haynes’ friend Elvis Costello. Early in the project
Haynes wrote the snarling “Funny Little Tragedy,” which reminded him of
Costello’s early music, and called Costello to ask him about the vocal mics
used for his first albums. After the conversation, Haynes started thinking
about how the song would sound if Costello sang it. As a result, he couldn’t
get Costello’s voice out of his head and began thinking about pairing other
vocalists with the set’s other songs.
made a list of Shout!’s titles and
his top choices for singers, and their responses were overwhelming - a tribute
to Haynes’ and Gov’t Mule’s standing
among their peers.
the band has such a wide variety of musical points of reference that a song can
start in any style - from rock to blues to funk to R&B to reggae - and end
up going to a completely different place.
“On Shout! every performance of each song
stands on its own, but always sounds like us,” he adds, “even if it’s a part of
us that most people have never heard before.”
reflection, Haynes offers that Gov’t Mule’s
journey has been full of surprises. “There’s no way I could have anticipated
the way we’d grow when we started,” Haynes remarks. “Everyone in Gov’t Mule brings their own personality
to the music, and we’re always looking for opportunities to expand and excite
ourselves. Shout! is proof of that,
as well as an album I could never have predicted we’d make even five years ago.”
when founding bassist Allen Woody passed away, Haynes and Abts discussed the
possibility of putting Gov’t Mule out
to pasture. Instead the band went on to become part of the tradition they had
always intended to honor.
Haynes, “is something we could only have dreamed to achieve and never expected
in a million years.”