Warren Haynes, “Common Man” from Ashes and Dust (2015): One Track Mind

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We’ve heard Warren Haynes do Southern rock, soulful rock, prog rock and straight-ahead rock. When word arrived, however, that he was working on a full-length collaboration with Railroad Earth, this was just the kind of left turn off a country road that we were expecting.

“Company Man,” our latest advance peek into Ashes and Dust (due July 24, 2015 via Concord Records) begins like a front-porch hootenanny — all mandolin, fiddle and slapping toe-heel rhythm. Listen closer, however, and the backbone of this track (from the serpentine slide to the workingman’s narrative) fits perfectly into the Warren Haynes catalog, even if the rest scarcely has before.

As Haynes traces the hard choices that go with trying to support a middle-class family, he begins a half century ago, but the sad consequences for those earning an hourly wage ring just as true in this era, as well. Maybe, in fact, more so.

By the time our protagonist shuffles toward retirement, having lost his wife, his original job and then started over from scratch only to find himself in an empty nest, Warren Haynes has crafted a perfect melding of his music and Railroad Earth’s, of his aesthetic and their’s. He also underscored the sense of rugged pride that remains, even for those who’ve always been just a cog in the wheel, but without the brawny bombast of his typical band settings.

As such, “Common Man” is just what you want from a collaborative effort like this, something that shines a new light on a long-treasured figure. After all, in those unfamiliar shadows, true revelations are found. Always a deeply soulful figure, he sounds somehow more rawly emotional. It’s like hearing Warren Haynes all over again for the first time.

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso has written for USA Today, American Songwriter, All About Jazz, and a host of others. Honored as columnist of the year five times by the Associated Press, Louisiana Press Association and Louisiana Sports Writers Association, he oversaw a daily section named Top 10 in the U.S. by the AP before co-founding Something Else! Nick is now associate editor of Ultimate Classic Rock.
Nick DeRiso
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