Gov’t Mule – Dark Side of the Mule (2014)

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Warren Haynes has nothing to prove. He made a name for himself in the Dickey Betts Band, before becoming a driving force in two generations of the Allman Brothers Band. He then started a fine career with his own band, while founding Gov’t Mule.

The Mule, started by Haynes and the late Allen Woody (also an Allman Brothers alum), is celebrating its 20th anniversary with the release of Dark Side of the Mule.

In recent years, Gov’t Mule has exploded the jam-band stereotypes with dedicated sets celebrating the Rolling Stones, the Who and Led Zeppelin. Dark Side of the Mule (Provogue/Mascot) is a left turn from those bluesy rockers, as Haynes and Co. take on Pink Floyd. Gov’t Mule — now featuring founding member Matt Abts on drums, bassist Carlsson and keyboardist Jorgen Carlsson — seem fearless in their tackling of classics such as “One of these Days” and “Time.” Indeed, you’d think the former was custom made for Gov’t Mule, with Warren Haynes unleashing a psychedelic slide guitar part which rivals the original David Gilmour lap steep in cunning and insanity.

Dark Side of the Mule, recorded during a Halloween 2008 show at the Orpheum Theatre in Boston, features all the well-known Pink Floyd tracks you’d expect — with a few lesser-known ones for color. Particularly effective is “Fearless,” originally from Pink Floyd’s Meddle. Here, Haynes wistfully captures the essence of the Gilmour/Roger Waters original, while the crowd noise almost mirrors the sound effects of the original Floyd recording.

On “Pigs on the Wing Pt. 2,” Haynes appears solo with his electric guitar and builds a track arguably more powerful than the original Waters performance on Animals.

“Shine on You Crazy Diamond” finds Gov’t Mule flirting with disaster. Carlsson doesn’t try to duplicate the keyboard textures constructed by late, underrated Floyd keyboardist Richard Wright, yet his passage is just a mesmerizing. Warren Haynes seems challenged and inspired by the keyboardist, which results in a blistering collection of blues licks — and a vocal which matches that intensity. Abts almost seems to restrain himself to copy the original drum track of Nick Mason.

If you’re a long-time Gov’t Mule fan, you’re going to love Dark Side of the Mule. If you’re a Pink Floyd fan, you will be moved. I’m hoping the extended version of the show and DVD are made available in America — and also that the Who and Led Zeppelin shows Gov’t Mule have done also come out.

Preston Frazier

Preston Frazier

Preston Frazier is a bass-playing lawyer living in Atlanta. His first Steely Dan exposure was with an eight-track cassette of 'Pretzel Logic.' He can be reached at slangofages@icloud.com; follow him on Twitter: @slangofages. Contact Something Else! at reviews@somethingelsereviews.com.
Preston Frazier
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