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Music to your Ears

Gov't Mule: High & Mighty

10/01/2006 - Musically speaking, every now and then I run across something that's simply better. Better than every and anything else I could choose to listen to. That's how I felt ten years ago or so when I first heard the Mule. Actually, it was almost exactly ten years ago. I was teaching school, and the school was about sixty miles away from the town where I lived. There were four of us teachers who commuted together, and as luck would have it, we all turned out to be audiophiles, which is just a fancy way of saying "musical nerds." The four of us would ride to school in relative silence, each spending the time mentally preparing for the day. The way home was a different story, though. We took turns presenting the selection of the day. There was a guy named Gus who usually drove, and he always turned us on to the coolest stuff. The day he popped the first Gov't Mule disc in, I was riding in the back, mentally shrugging off the cares of the day.

"I think you guys are gonna love this," Gus said with a devious grin. "Especially you, Tony." Yep. Gus knew I was the nerdiest nerd in the car.

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Gus was correct. I told him to turn it up, and got completely lost in the music. Later that night, I went and bought a copy of the disc. I was a fan. Still am. Always will be.

Now, you've got to admit that Gov't Mule is a very intriguing name for a band. Come on. You know you're curious. Gov't Mule? What sort of thing could that be?As it turns out, the band sounds like the name. It all makes sense, once you hear them.

Gov't Mule is really a guy named Warren Haynes. Rolling Stone Magazine says Warren is the twenty-third best guitar player of all time. I'd have to rank him...ninth, maybe. Or seventh. Seriously, he's that good. Warren Haynes is a rock/blues player, or maybe a blues/rock player, and his band rocks in a bluesy way. Or maybe they play blues in a very rockin' way. There's more though, to Warren Haynes and Gov't Mule than simple blues and rock. Their music grooves infectiously, and carries with it some sort of undefineable cool quality. It's down and dirty, hip and fresh, old and familiar, brilliant and unadorned all at once.

A peek into Warren's musical backround reveals the secret behind his genius, I think. He grew up on country, blues, soul, funk, and rock. He played with legendary outlaw country artist David Allen Coe, Dickey Betts and the Allman Brothers (Warren has been a memebr since the late 80's), and jammed with the Grateful Dead. He co-wrote one of Garth Brook's biggest hits, and has recorded with artists as diverse as Ben Harper, Jason Newstead from Metallica, and Kid Rock. There you have it. Haynes approaches music with no regard for genre, but always keeps one foot rooted in the blues. A good example of this is the song "Unring the Bell" off the new release, "High and Mighty". It's an eight minute long reggae/blues/rock jam featuring a ridiculously catchy groove that's carried along by Warren's trusty wah-wah pedal.

In addition to be a first-rate guitar slinger, Warren Haynes has one of the coolest, most soulful voices around. He really has sort of the perfect blues singing voice. It's kind of gravelly, with great range and just the right amount of emotive vibrato. And, as if his playing and singing weren't enough, the guy writes amazing songs.

In all, I'd have to say High & Mighty is probably number two on my list of great releases this year. Number one? That was last month. You're gonna have to go look it up. Anyway, if you already knew about Gov't Mule, I bet you agree with me. If not, check 'em out and turn 'em up.

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