Home Read Albums Of The Week: Gov’t Mule | Heavy Load Blues

Albums Of The Week: Gov’t Mule | Heavy Load Blues

Warren Haynes and co. keep it real on this blend of gritty 12-bar classics & new fare.

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THE EDITED PRESS RELEASE:Heavy Load Blues is the first-ever blues album by renowned quartet Gov’t Mule, led by Grammy-winning vocalist, songwriter, guitar legend, and producer Warren Haynes. The album contains an even mix of Haynes’ originals and revered covers originally made famous by the likes of Howlin’ Wolf, Elmore James, Junior Wells, Ann Peebles, Bobby “Blue” Bland, and even Tom Waits and The Animals.

“For me, personally, it’s kind of been on my list of things to do for years,” shares Haynes. “I didn’t know if it was gonna be a solo album or a Gov’t Mule record. We play some traditional blues on stage from time to time and although it’s usually never more than a few songs per show, our approach to the blues is unique and based on our collective chemistry as a band. This album gave us a mission. Although in some way it was ‘anything goes,’ we wanted to stay true to the spirit of the blues in a traditional sense. It’s not a blues/rock record — it’s a blues record. We wanted it sonically to sound different from a normal Gov’t Mule record.”

Though technically considered a studio album, Heavy Load Blues was recorded live in the studio at The Power Station New England on analog tape, utilizing vintage guitars, amps and other equipment to capture an authentic sound. The 13-track album was produced by Haynes alongside engineer and co-producer John Paterno (Michael Landau, Robbie Williams, The Steve Gadd Band).

One of the many standout tracks is the Junior Wells standard Snatch It Back and Hold It, which allowed the band to freely cover a classic while sandwiching a spontaneous jam called Hold It Back in the middle of a soulful, stirring interpretation that was given a decidedly funky groove. In that regard, while several titles may sound familiar to blues enthusiasts, the band — Haynes, Matt Abts (drums), Danny Louis (keyboards, guitar, and backing vocals), and Jorgen Carlsson (bass) — often opted to put its own spin on them.

I Feel Like Breaking Up Somebody’s Home, originally recorded by Peebles, is one of the few songs on the record the band has previously played live. On their version, Haynes’ nimble guitar riffs are played out over a solid foundation of organ and rhythm, resulting in a kind of funk-like finesse. For the Howlin’ Wolf song, I Asked Her For Water, She Gave Me Gasoline, Gov’t Mule, who are known for pushing the parameters while melding a variety of genres — rock, R&B, jam, funk, jazz, and practically everything in-between — opted for a heavy, up-tempo and funky version that is a far cry from the original.”