A lifelong fan, Warren Haynes remembers joining the Allman Brothers Band some 23 years ago as a “gradual process.”
Of course, he’s stayed busy along the way, too. Haynes is coming off a 2012 Grammy nomination for best blues album, recognition for the standout solo project Man In Motion. He’s maintained another stand-alone group in Gov’t Mule, as well, and also tours with Phil Lesh in a band featuring the former Grateful Dead bassist and a series of rotating sidemen. Haynes was also a leading force in a recent tribute to the late Tommy Bolin, a former member of Deep Purple and the James Gang.
But Haynes remains most famous for his ongoing tenure with the Allman Brothers Band, which whom he recently wrapped up a lengthy 2012 residency at the Beacon Theatre in New York City.
He’d started listening to the Allmans at age 9, he tells the Kentucky Kernel. “My oldest brother brought home the first record when it was just out, and having two older brothers, I got force fed a lot of great music,” he says. “Hearing the Allman Brothers, even at such a young age, was very overwhelming.”
A signature moment for the youngster was At Fillmore East, the band’s platinum-selling 1971 double-live release — which ranks No. 49 on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the 500 greatest albums of all time. “I was starting to play guitar and all my friends that were the same age had that record,” Haynes says. “We were all studying it and very enamored with it.”
By his mid-20s, Haynes was playing as a sideman with Allmans stalwart Dickey Betts, and within a few years was asked to fill in on tour as the band reconvened after nine years apart. “It was nothing really beyond that,” Haynes remembers, “but it went so well that we did it the next year and the next year — and here it is 23 years later, I’m still there.”
Not that he’s taken this lengthy stint in one of rock music’s signature bands for granted. Haynes says he knows just how lucky he is.
“I tend to not forget that in general,” Haynes said. “I’m very grateful for all the wonderful opportunities I’ve been given. You can work your ass off and still not be successful, so I’m very fortunate to have worked with so many great people through the years.”
Here’s a look back at our recent thoughts on Gov’t Mule and the Allman Brothers Band. Click through the titles for complete reviews …
ONE TRACK MIND: WARREN HAYNES AND GOV’T MULE, ‘WORRIED DOWN WITH THE BLUES’ (2011): What more perfect song to include in a benefit for the homeless than “Worried Down With The Blues”? A devastatingly lonesome track originally included on Gov’t Mule’s the first album following bassist Allen Woody’s untimely passing, it mirrored the album’s general tone — something that can only be called mournful anger. If anything, this new live version resonates even more fully as part of Warren Haynes Presents: The Benefit Volume 4. Eschewing the muscular, grease-trap Southern rawk so long associated with Gov’t Mule, or the Allman Brothers for that matter, “Worried Down With The Blues,” then as now, boasts a serrated blues attitude similar to that put forth by the likes of Buddy Guy or Otis Rush. It’s a city blues, hard and blunt, a song about a dying love — but perfect for a Habitat for Humanity benefit with broader aspirations in that it speaks to anyone who’s desperately missed something.
ONE TRACK MIND: THE ALLMAN BROTHERS, “MELISSA” (1972): Long before I was able to digest the epic, twenty-five minute meandering noodlings of Dicky Betts and Duane Allman, I deeply dug the Allman Brothers’ “Melissa.” It’s a wistful, country-flavored ballad that was easy to learn how to play on a beat-up Yamaha acoustic guitar, and since it was one of the more popular cuts from Eat A Peach, I’m sure I wasn’t the only kid who tried to take it on. The beauty of Gregg Allman’s classic tune doesn’t rest on any fancy playing, although Betts’ beautifully lonely guitar notes adds to the sorrow. Rather, the essence of the song can be found in Gregg’s ragged, weary vocal that sings about a restless travelling loner, a “gypsy” who longs for the comfort of Melissa waiting at home.
THE ALLMAN BROTHERS BAND – ONE WAY OUT (2004): The tendency for bands like this — bands that are known for their jamming — is to just rely on jamming, period. This has always been my problem, I find that most of the bands who jam simply lack the chops and taste to maintain my interest for long as they fall back on repetition and simple variations of riffs. The Allman Brothers Band perfected the art of jamming long ago, and One Way Out doesn’t lack for it. Numerous tracks venture past the 10 minute mark, but don’t drag on so long that you forget what song you’re even listening to. What could be an aural mess is just the opposite. The mix on One Way Out is fantastic – so clear that everyone’s parts are exquisitely defined, each being given plenty of room and space and yet it never sounds weak. One Way Out is just plain fun to listen to.
GREGG ALLMAN – LOW COUNTRY BLUES (2011): This record’s hat-tips to blues, R&B, gospel and jazz only underscore how each provided uniquely American spices in the Allman Brothers Band’s bubbling Southern-rock synthesis. Even so, it could have been recipe for a snoozy conversation piece if not for Allman — the archetypical risktaker. Check out the appropriately fidgety edge he adds to Muddy Waters’ “I Can’t Be Satisfied,” as Allman dirties up a Chess-era groove. Other highlights include a devastatingly frank update of Sleepy John Estes’ “Floating Bridge,” with a surging assist at the piano from Dr. John; Junior Wells’ “Little by Little,” transformed into something resembling a lost soul side from the 1950s; Skip James’ “Devil Got My Woman,” which again reveals the lively intellect of guitarist Doyle Bramhall II; and Amos Milburn’s hardy R&B classic “Tears, Tears, Tears,” where Allman — belying a series of serious health problems — howls with a shanty-shaking, soul-rending power. He’s still got it. Every bit of it.
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