Growing on the Road: Gov’t Mule, February 9 at the Capitol Print
Music - Feature Stories
Written by Jeff Ignatius   
Thursday, 04 February 2010 08:33

Gov't MuleWarren Haynes joined the Allman Brothers Band in 1989, and was a member of the Dead for its 2004 and 2009 tours.

But Haynes, who was 23rd on Rolling Stone's 2003 list of the 100 greatest guitarists of all time, suggested in a phone interview this week that Gov't Mule is dearest to his heart, despite the legendary status of his other bands. He co-founded Gov't Mule in 1994 as an Allman offshoot, and he said it offers an unparalleled freedom.

"Gov't Mule is our laboratory to create anything musically that we want to create," he said. "We're still establishing the parameters. In in a band like the Allman Brothers or the Grateful Dead, they're pretty open-minded about what the music can be, but there are parameters that were established a long time ago ... ."

Gov't Mule will perform at the Capitol Theatre in downtown Davenport on Tuesday, February 9, and Haynes said the quartet has a newfound energy. It's evident on the band's album from last year -- By a Thread -- and in its live shows, and he credited that change to bassist Jorgen Carlsson, who joined a year and a half ago.

"The band's playing together right now in a way that we haven't played in a long, long time," Haynes aid. "It's very experimental, very cathartic."

Gov't Mule had typically written a song or two in the studio for each of its albums, but four of By a Thread's tracks were composed that way, and none of the material had been road-tested.

"We mostly wanted to get into the studio right away with our new bass player ... and kind of force our hand in that way," Haynes said. "It really galvanized the chemistry ... ."

Carlsson's approach and sound "are much more aggressive than any of the bass players we've worked with since [founding bassist and Allman Brothers member] Allen Woody passed away [in 2000]," Haynes said. "He instinctively brings some of that same spirit back that Gov't Mule was founded on in the first place -- which is a very aggressive approach to rock-and-roll bass-playing." Because of that, he said, the band is revisiting older material that it hasn't played in a while.

Gov't Mule was formed to explore the possibilities of the improvisational rock trio, and "we never even knew that we were going to make a second record," Haynes said.

But the formula -- "We have one foot in the jam-band world and one foot in the rock-and-roll world" -- has worked. There are ethereal and space-y passages on By a Thread, but mostly the record is, as the All Music Guide said, "big and fat and nasty," with clear roots in classic blues-based power trios (Cream, the Jimi Hendrix Experience), the South, and the jam-band forebears that Haynes plays with.

"The band grows with every show," Haynes said. "Allen Woody and I used to always say that as much as you rehearse, it doesn't mean nearly as much as performing. One performance is equal to 10 rehearsals, and we do a lot of shows. So that allows for a lot of room for growth within the band. ... You can feel the band grow on the road."

Haynes, who turns 50 this year, said that the Allman Brothers are still going strong, even though the group is scaling back this year after 2009's 40th-anniversary tour.

And his rule for that band is also likely to apply to Gov't Mule: "We kind of all said for years that as long as the band was still breaking new ground nightly in an improvisational way on stage and still playing at a high performance level, then we would keep doing it. But the moment it turned into a nostalgia act, we would stop."

Gov't Mule will perform on Tuesday, February 9, at the Capitol Theatre (330 West Third Street in Davenport). The Steepwater Band opens, and the show begins at 8 p.m. Tickets are $25 in advance and available from

For more information on Gov't Mule, visit

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