Revolution Come… Revolution Go is the most ambitious album of Gov’t Mule’s career. The band’s widest grasp of musical styles meshes with pointedly personal and topical material on which the core quartet, with some judicious assistance, displays deceptive ingenuity in the writing, arranging and playing.
This collection of brand new material features a number of influences the group has displayed on stage, but never fully explored in the studio. For instance, “Sarah Surrender,” has an easygoing Latin swing and vividly evokes the R&B style of Al Green, while “Traveling Tune,” a friendly ode to the road, features the sweet ornamentation of pedal steel as an overt nod to country & western music.
Juxtaposed with those cuts is a title tune that hearkens directly back to early Gov’t Mule. “Thorns of Life” contains similarly surprising melodic shifts and rhythm changes and its raucous nature is of a piece with “Burning Point,” where Texas blues icon Jimmie Vaughan, brother of Stevie Ray, solos with a fire comparable to Haynes’. The latter’s guitar work on those aforementioned rockers, and elsewhere throughout the record, is in keeping with its diverse production, a collaboration of the Mule’s titular leader in conjunction with long-time collaborator Gordie Johnson.
The novel musical styles, supervised largely at the latter’s Arlyn Studios in Austin Texas (with Don Was’ judicious assistance on two selections) correspond to lyrical themes. Warren long ago mastered the introspective likes of the haunting “Pressure Under Fire” and “Thorns of Life,” is an equally ominous semi-ballad. But on “The Man That I Want to Be,” he places one-on-one relationships in a self-aware context and offers reflections on the role(s) of a parent during “Dreams and Songs.”
Accompanying these personal observations are equally discerning takes on socially-relevant topics. “Drawn That Way” is a direct response to the urban shooting tragedies of recent years, while the opening song, “Stone Cold Rage,” addresses cultural issues that transcend politics. The continuity of subject matter and sound on Revolution Come, Revolution Go allows Gov’t Mule to maintain the flow of the album as a complete statement, the climax of which, in the form of a reworked traditional titled “Dark Was The Night, Cold Was The Ground, “ renders moot the workmanlike nature afflicting some of the record.
In fact, rather than turn superfluous the six additional numbers on the second CD of the deluxe package, this gospel blues of Blind Willie Johnson’s sets up the alternate takes and live-in-the-studio cuts as a most fitting encore to what’s preceded, further positing the concept of a long-player as a viable medium of potent expression.