Posts Tagged ‘ Gov’t Mule ’

Album of the Week 06-2020: The Allman Brothers Band – Hittin’ The Note

‘Hittin’ The Note’ was the first and only studio album The Allman Brothers Band recorded without either of their legendary founding guitarists. Duane Allman died way back in late 1971 and Dickey Betts was asked to leave the band in 2000. For a guitar-oriented band like The Allman Brothers Band, this could be disastrous. With replacements like Derek Trucks and Gov’t Mule frontman Warren Haynes, however, there was nothing to worry about. Especially with Haynes, who also acts as co-producer, tightening up the songwriting significantly. As a result, ‘Hittin’ The Note’ rivals ‘Shades Of Two Worlds’ as the band’s best post-reunion release.

Musically, ‘Hittin’ The Note’ sounds notably more focused than its meandering predecessor – by no less than nine years – ‘Where It All Begins’. Since this is The Allman Brothers Band, the music is still rather jam-heavy, but the songs feel less like mere vehicles for extended jams. Betts’ departure also means that the music is notably less country-oriented. Of course this was not Betts’ only trick, but as main songwriters, Haynes and singing keyboard player Gregg Allman are obviously more strongly inspired by blues and soul. Even the acoustically-based ‘Old Before My Time’ and ‘Old Friend’ sound folky and bluesy respectively.

At times, it can become fairly obvious that the main songwriter on the album – Haynes co-wrote all the non-covers on ‘Hittin’ The Note’ – is a member of Gov’t Mule. The dry, funky blues of opening track ‘Firing Line’, the fierce and tight ‘Maydell’, the gritty blues rock of ‘Rockin’ Horse’ and the relatively low-key, rumbling soul blues of ‘Who To Believe’ could easily have been Gov’t Mule songs had they had slightly different arrangements. Those arrangements are relevant though. At least half of the Allman Brothers’ sound is about their unique rhythm section (drummers Jaimoe and Butch Trucks and percussionist Marc Quiñones) and how well the musicians play off each other.

Nowhere is this musical interaction as obvious as on the twelve minute ‘Instrumental Illness’. The Allman Brothers Band has a history of fantastic instrumental tracks and this one is no different. Its playful, jazzy vibe conjures up memories of Betts’ masterpiece ‘In Memory Of Elizabeth Reed’, but ‘Instrumental Illness’ is more tightly composed and arranged. There are more parts, which appear to be designed to let every musician shine without diverting your attention away from the stellar playing behind the solos. ‘Desdemona’ has a middle section like that as well. It starts as a fantastic slow blues with a heartfelt vocal delivery by Allman, broken up by what almost feels like a slower take on the jam in ‘Whipping Post’.

In short, ‘Hittin’ The Note’ is exactly what one would expect from The Allman Brothers Band, just done somewhat better than usual. It is definitely one of my favorite three studio albums of the band and I think that is mainly due to the fact that the focus is on strong songwriting in which to incorporate spirited jamming rather than making the jams the center of the album. Whatever the case, anyone who is into bluesy rock music should hear this album, if only to hear that even without Duane Allman and Dickey Betts, the band was capable of some mind-blowing work.

Recommended tracks: ‘Rockin’ Horse’, ‘Instrumental Illness’, ‘Maydell’

Loads of Kevy Metal photography and articles in Gitarist!

If I told you I wasn’t proud of this month’s issue of Gitarist – in stores today – I would be lying to you. Besides the reviews on the new albums of Hard Rock trio Gingerpig, the heavy Progrock of Deanmoore and the Jazzrock collaboration of Gov’t Mule and John Scofield, I contributed three interviews. Guitar slingers Alfred van Luttikhuizen and Christoffer van Teijlingen of Hardcore ‘n’ Rollers John Coffey talk us through the year between their last live shows and now and the recordings of ‘The Great News’, Tank86‘s guitar duo of Joost Kruiswijk and Harold Aling talk the remarkable equipment that their incredibly heavy new album ‘Obey’ has been recorded with and Arnold Smits gives us all the details of the recording of the long awaited comeback album of Dutch Funk legends Gotcha!.

However, the photography of this issue is what lends just a little extra to this issue for me personally. The photo impression of the Eurosonic Noorderslag festival contains only photos and texts from my hand. I have never had a photo spread of mine published and having it done makes me feel extremely proud. The John Coffey interview has also been decorated with photos I took of Alfred and Christoffer as well. To give you an impression of what you can expect in terms of photographic evidence of my presence at Eurosonic Noorderslag, I’ll share some extra photos that aren’t in Gitarist, but are on the website with you.

The Common Linnets were slightly frowned upon by the section of music experts that take themselves too seriously. In all honesty, I went to check them out because after two days of photographing ugly men, I felt the need to have Ilse DeLange in front of my lens. And really, the show was a pleasant surprise. You can ridicule them any way you want for their Eurovision Song Contest success, but in fact, DeLange and De Dijk guitarist JB Meijers are part of a really strong Americana band. Sure, actually having Americans in the band helps, but new song ‘We Don’t Make The Wind Blow’ sent shivers down my spine. Great vocal interaction. Though I’m not a fan of the genre, it’s all been executed very well. An unexpected highlight that in my opinion has rightfully been rewarded with the Popprijs.

Navarone. What can I say about them that I haven’t said already? They are simply the best Rock band in all of Holland and possibly the entire world at the moment. The only complaint I would have about their fantastic set at Eurosonic 2015 would be its limited length, something they can’t help of course. The huge Zeppelin-esque seventies riffs and the nineties Hardrock unconventionality combined with a Queens Of The Stone Age-like experimentalism and an eclecticism similar to The Black Crowes resulted in the most exciting set of Rock songs in the shape of ‘Vim And Vigor’ last year. And if that doesn’t convince you, Merijn van Haaren’s impossibly amazing with its Robert Plant range and Steven Tyler edge will. On a more boring note, I love this photo of guitarist Roman Huijbreghs.

Jett Rebel is an artist I felt the need to photograph based on his immense popularity rather than my appreciation for his music. Surprisingly, there were some aspects of his Eurosonic Air performance that I actually really liked. His band is fantastic. Especially drummer Rick van Wort amazed me – he even started the show with a short drum solo – but Jett Rebel himself is a more than capable guitarist himself as well. His Prince-like Rock song ‘Do You Love Me At All?’ got stuck in my head for days. On the other hand, at some points he seemed more interested in making contact with the – admittedly beautiful – young ladies in the front row than actually serving them with a great concert. His attempts at audience participation really disrupted the flow of the show. Ironically, his performance at Norderslag reportedly contained virtually no audience participation. I’ll have to admit that his band and especially Jett himself are very photogenic.

Album of the Week 50-2014: Gov’t Mule – Dose

Now that Gov’t Mule has started releasing several recordings to celebrate their twentieth anniversary, it seems the right moment to give some attention to their discography. And although their discography does seem to confirm Gov’t Mule’s reputation as a live band, they have released quite some impressive albums. ‘Dose’ is probably the most impressive one because it doesn’t only highlight the band’s qualities as musicians, but also as songwriters. While the record is all over the map style-wise, it does feel like a whole. Even when the songs get extremely jam-heavy, the trio keeps it concise and interesting.

It’s important to know where Gov’t Mule is coming from to fully understand their brilliance. Original bassist Allen Woody, who sadly passed away in 2000, and guitar slinging frontman Warren Haynes more or less brought The Allman Brothers Band their second youth in the early nineties. They teamed up with drummer Matt Abts to form a power trio and apparently have some more musical freedom. Their live sets contain Blues, Soul, Rock, Jazz, Folk and even some old school Heavy Metal covers and save for the latter, all these influences are represented on ‘Dose’. It seems unlikely, but it works incredibly well.

Why it works so well is because these songs are – despite the room provided for improvisation – extremely well written. The most obvious example is ‘Thorazine Shuffle’: due to its relatively simple structure, there’s plenty of space to solo over, but in the end, it’s Woody’s incredible and surprisingly timed bass line that makes the song. Also, it’s one of the best bass lines ever recorded. Opening track ‘Blind Man In The Dark’ seems relatively concise, but prove to be an excellent vehicle for extended jams in future live shows and on future live albums as well. Maybe that’s what makes Gov’t Mule the best recorded jam band: they know albums and live shows are different sciences.

The aforementioned songs, along ‘Game Face’ and ‘Larger Than Life’, became Gov’t Mule live staples through the years, and rightfully so, but there’s so much more to hear on this album. My personal favorite being ‘Towering Fool’, a surprisingly sparse and heartfelt power ballad with an incredible build-up. It does help that Haynes isn’t only a world class guitarist, but also a fantastic, soulful singer. It’s one of those ballads that cuts through your soul. Obligated listening. Other notable moments are the acoustic and folky ‘Raven Black Night’ and the gospel-like closer ‘I Shall Return’.

While Gov’t Mule has at least as many fantastic live albums as studio records and most of them are worth having, their studio albums generally are very pleasant listening experiences as well. ‘Dose’ is probably the one that captures them best without going all overboard on jamming, something that obviously works better live than on an album. Instead, it’s a collection of strong Rock songs, expert musicianship and Warren Haynes’ fantastic voice. And while Allen Woody is sadly no longer with us and the band has since expanded to a quartet, the legacy of the band lives on. Hopefully for much, much longer.

Recommended tracks: ‘Towering Fool’, ‘Thorazine Shuffle’, ‘Blind Man In The Dark’