Singer-guitarist Warren Haynes and his band, Gov’t Mule, are carrying a legacy of throwback Southern rock, explosive guitar theatrics and folk storytelling.
It’s now been five years since Haynes played his final note with the Allman Brothers at the band’s farewell show, and two since the death of Gregg Allman and the band’s drummer Butch Trucks. Haynes regularly pays tribute with Allman Brothers’ songs at Mule’s live sets, and in the spirit of their improvisation-heavy rock.
“It’s been a tough couple years for everyone in our camp and our extended family,” Haynes said recently from his home north of New York City. “The Allman Brothers’ music will live on without our help or anyone else’s help. … That music proved itself to be timeless a long time ago and I’m just grateful to have been a part of it.”
Gov’t Mule opens a three-month, 30-plus-concert international tour this weekend in Colorado with a night show at Spring Back to Vail tonight followed by two concerts at Belly Up Aspen on Saturday and Sunday.
The big spring Mule tour follows a two-night March run of Haynes’ collaboration with the Asheville Symphony Orchestra in his North Carolina hometown, which saw Haynes and a band — including fellow greats like John Medeski, Oteil Burbidge and Jeff Sipe — performing orchestral adaptations of his songs.
“It was a wonderful opportunity for me to do something I’ve never done before,” Haynes said. “It was a cool combination of orchestrated music and improvised music that would weave in and out.”
The tour also is a sort of soft launch for Mule’s 25th anniversary. The band’s first show was May 12, 1994. The first Mule album was released the following year.
Mule’s earliest shows included a mountain town run that included Breckenridge and Steamboat Springs.
“Some of our earliest shows were in Colorado,” Haynes said. “So I’m looking forward to going back and seeing what we played in those early shows and patterning some of the spirit of these shows around what we were doing back then.”
The band started as a side project for Haynes and the late Allen Woody while they were on a break from the Allman Brothers.
“A 25th anniversary is not something any of us ever expected,” he said. “We were going to do one record and one tour and we didn’t have any aspirations beyond that. But it kind of caught fire on its own and turned into a real band. And here we are 25 years later.”
Haynes has long been a regular in Aspen, playing here with the Allmans, with Mule and with side projects including his acoustic Ashes and Dust Band and the Sco-Mule collaboration with jazz guitarist John Scofield. All of that diverse work — and out-of-the-box experiments like the symphonies — inform Gov’t Mule.
“Being surrounded by so many great musicians, I’m constantly getting inspiration from all directions,” he said.
Haynes and Gov’t Mule’s repertoire of jam rock with notes of blues and soul and some jazz — Haynes has long dreamed of doing a jazz-centric instrumental album — is on full display in the band’s latest record.
“It’s a very diverse record – it covers a lot of ground musically,” Haynes said. “And it all connected with our audience right away.”
The quartet went into an Austin recording studio on Election Day 2016 to begin work on its most recent record, “Revolution Come, Revolution Go,” released in 2017. Songs from the album like the come-together anthem “Pressure Under Fire” and the cathartic rocker “Stone Cold Rage” sound now like responses to the early Trump era. But, Haynes noted, he actually wrote them before the election about the mounting tensions in the U.S.
“They were written about the divide going on in our country that wasn’t going to change, regardless of who won the presidency,” Haynes said. “So it takes on a little bit of a different meaning after Trump is elected, but it’s still the same message.”
A handful of songs from the record — including the title track, “Travelin’ Tune,” and “Dark Was the Night” — have become staples of Mule sets in the last two years.
“Our audience is always itching for new material, but this stuff seemed to connect more immediately.”
Bring On The Music Out Now!
New live release features over 5 hours of music. Available on CD, DVD, Blu-Ray, Vinyl and Digitally.