Gov’t Mule – Heavy Load Blues
I guess it was inevitable that Warren Haynes and Gov’t Mule would want to make a blues album and I certainly am glad they did. Haynes and the band just did what came naturally to them and let the blues flow out of them. Recorded live in the studio, this album really has a live and fresh feeling to the performances. There is an extended version with 7 more tracks; the shorter version was sent out for review here.
Gov’t Mule is Warren Haynes on guitars and vocals, Matt Abs on drums, Danny Louis on keys, guitar and backing vocals, and Jorgen Carlsson on bass. The first cut has a guest harp player and the second a guest horn section of Pam Fleming on trumpet, Jenny Hill on tenor sax and Buford O’Sullivan on trombone.
The album starts with a rousing rendition of Elmore James’ “Blues Before Sunrise” with all the pomp and circumstance of the original and more. Haynes growls out the vocals, the slide guitar wails and the added harp by Hook Herrera is super. In my mind, Haynes does not need to use vocal effects, but many like them and it is cool. They follow that with an original slow blues entitled “Hole In My Soul” with some thoughtful guitar and vocals and the horn section doing an outstanding job with their work, too. “Wake Up Dead” follows, another fine original tune. The organ plays a big roll and Haynes again shines on guitar and vocals. This one’s a midtempo blues rocker with some stinging guitar work and stellar organ. Haynes’ “Love Is A Mean Old World” is next, with Haynes adding resonator with his electric guitar. A little piano here and there and soloing nicely rounds this riving and heavy hill country-esque cut. The classic Junior Wells tune “Snatch It Back and Hold It” gets a fine cover with Haynes one again doing yeoman’s work with his axe, stretching this one out to almost 8 minutes with an added spontaneous jam “Hold It Back” in the middle of the cut. There’s a pretty underlying bass groove and great organ soloing and support to boot here. Up next is “Ain’t No Love in the Heart of the City,” a soulful, slow blues made famous by Bobby Bland. Haynes has some delicious grit in his vocals here as he does another fine job making covers his own. “(Brother Bill) Last Clean Shirt” is an old Lieber and Stoller tune, first done in 1964 by The Honeyman and covered by the likes of T-Bone Walker, The Animals, James Harman and so many more. This one is traditional slow blues with some fantastic guitar work and good vocals.
“Make It Rain” is a Tom Waits cover and Haynes give us his growling and heavy take on it; it’s quite somber, almost a little eerie and well done! The title track “Heavy Load” comes next and Warren again breaks out his resonator for this acoustic solo effort as he gives us front porch Mule blues to savor and enjoy. They continue after that with “Feel Like Breaking Up Somebody’s Home” is another classic. Haynes takes this one from Johnny Adams and the others who followed and give it his own spin with a bluesy, funky, rocking twang to it. Haynes’ own “If Heartaches Were Nickels” follows that, a slow and pretty blues ballad. Warren turns things down a few notches to deliver this down and interesting cut with great feeling. He punctuates his vocals with guitar nicely and the organ and guitar solos flesh this one out sweetly. Howlin’ Wolf’s “I Asked For Water (She Gave Me Gasoline” is next, is a big and driving piece where Haynes howls out the lead. Organ and guitar are huge here and this one’s a dramatic cover for sure as Mule stretches this out to over 9 minutes in their fine jam band manner. The last song is a final original tune called “Black Horizon.” Haynes get his resonator out one last time for a mostly solo effort with some added clapping and vocal harmonies. It’s another great, traditional blues cut and Haynes excels once again.
Rockers returning to the blues is nothing new, but we know Warren Haynes can play and sing the blues well just based on his work with in the past the Allman Brothers. Here we get Warren Haynes and his jam band Gov’t Mule doing the blues as only they can. It’s a great album and they showcase their amazing skills in every tune. I really enjoyed this one and highly recommend it. You won’t be disappointed!