As Gov’t Mule reached a turning point, By a Thread delivered

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Gov’t Mule might be my favorite modern-era ’70s rock band, if that makes any sense. By a Thread, released on October 27, 2009, is a great example of just why.

The band holed up in Willie Nelson’s Austin, Texas, studio in advance of By a Thread, writing a collection of songs that was full of grit and fire, even as it retained the thick soul of their prior work. At the same time, change was in the air. The Allen Woody Memorial bass chair was turned over permanently to Jorgen Carlsson on this project. I don’t now where this guy came from, but he’s a monster on the four string – someone who could match the power of Gov’t Mule guitarist Warren Haynes chord for chord without stepping outside the traditional bass player’s role.

By a Thread commenced with a butt-whooping track, the Texas rumble of “Broke Down On The Brazos.” The song more than nods toward ZZ Top; Warren Haynes and Billy Gibbons trade fours in an epic exchange of blues licks. That rootsy connection stays strong on the electrified Delta blues of “Railroad Boy,” and the psychedelic blues of “Inside Outside Woman Blues #3.” The latter nine-minute cut is nearly matched in length by Gov’t Mule’s epic “Monday Mourning Meltdown,” which isn’t a straight blues, but simmers along nicely, slyly shifting into a jazz groove in the middle like a classic Allman Brothers Band jam. For songs made up on the spot, there’s a lot of varying moods, sometimes within the same songs.

Gov’t Mule’s playing is consistently top notch, too. By a Thread marked the beginning of a new era, as this band was now capable of doing just about anything it wanted to do – without much preparation. If they can do that in a studio, you can imagine what they are capable of live. And that’s what made By a Thread so special, hearing a band respond to success by trying even harder to stay real and rooted in its influences.

Just like all great ’70s rock bands, whatever their vintage.

S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron is an SQL demon for a Fortune 100 company by day, music opinion-maker at night. His musings are strewn out across the interwebs on jazz.com, AllAboutJazz.com, a football discussion board and some inchoate customer reviews of records from the late 1990s on Amazon under a pseudonym that will never be revealed. E-mail him at svaaron@somethingelsereviews .com or follow him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SVictorAaron
S. Victor Aaron
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