Rock torchbearers Gov’t Mule are celebrating their 20th anniversary with an extensive tour and a series of dynamic live archival releases that highlight the group’s versatility and epic, fearless live performances. No two Gov’t Mule shows are alike, as the band draws on the more than 300 songs in their repertoire (and often a host of special guests) to create a unique experience each and every time. Their steadily expanding fan base knows that the Mule always has something special waiting for them. Expect the unexpected.
The deep chemistry and steely confidence shared by the quartet allow them to tackle any form of music and stamp it their own while remaining true to the spirit and intent of the original. This can of course be heard any time guitarist-singer Warren Haynes, drummer Matt Abts, bassist Jorgen Carlsson and multi-instrumentalist Danny Louis take the stage, but a series of new live archival releases really drives the point home.
The first of the archival releases, Stoned Side of the Mule: Volume 1, captures the Mule on Halloween 2009 ripping through seven impassioned Rolling Stone covers. This special Record Store Day Black Friday release (out November 28, 2014), available only at select independent record stores, will be available as a limited edition vinyl-only pressing, newly-edited and mastered, with the vinyl lacquers cut from the old Stax Records lathe in Memphis. The release also features special guests Jackie Greene and Steve Elson.
The second archival release, Dark Side of the Mule, will be released on December 9, 2014, and features 90 minutes of Pink Floyd covers recorded during the band’s Halloween 2008 show at the Orpheum Theatre in Boston, MA. There will be three configurations including a standard version (1-CD), a deluxe version (3-CD/1-DVD package featuring the entire 3-hour performance) and as a double vinyl version. All configurations feature audio newly-mixed and mastered.
The third release, Dub Side of the Mule, will be released in early 2015 and shines a light on the band’s New Year’s Eve 2006 Beacon Theatre show. Newly-mixed and mastered, it includes a 45-minute set of reggae songs with special guest, reggae legend Toots Hibbert (founder of Toots & The Maytals). This will also be available in three configurations including a standard version (1-CD), a deluxe version (3-CD set of the entire 3-hour performance and one DVD of the Toots set) and a double vinyl version. The release also features special guests Gregg Allman & Friends and John Popper.
On January 2015, fans will finally be able to get their hands and ears on a very special release – the long-awaited SCO-MULE album. In late September of 1999, John Scofield teamed with Gov’t Mule, then featuring original bass player the late Allen Woody, along with keyboardist Dr. Dan Matrazzo, in Georgia for two legendary shows of mind-bending live prowess. Both shows were recorded and included the Mule’s first-ever all-instrumental sets. The band had begun preparing the music for eventual release while working on their third studio album Life Before Insanity. However, less than a year later, their beloved bassist Allen Woody passed away, setting the Mule on a different path. The idea of releasing SCO-MULE came up over the years, but the timing was never as right as it is now – helping to mark Gov’t Mule’s 20th Anniversary. While Scofield and the Mule did reunite briefly for a set at Warren Haynes’ 25th Annual Christmas Jam in December 2013, fans have been clamoring for the return of the project ever since those lauded 1999 shows, and for more than a decade the Mule have been eager to share the music from these shows through an LP. Now for the first time, fans can experience the SCO-MULE magic first-hand in album form, newly mixed and mastered. The 3-hour all-instrumental album is a jazz romp laced with rock riffs and will be available as a 2-CD set as well as a double vinyl.
Warren Haynes’ unparalleled ability to bring together different musicians into a cohesive whole or to pull off epic musical happenings is one of the many reasons why Haynes stands apart from the many great front men and guitarists who have graced the musical landscape. Combined with his guitar and vocal mastery, these skills have made him an in-demand presence and indispensible musical ally for many. This was shown most recently on Mule’s most collaborative album to date, Shout!, their most recent (and 15th) studio album. The one-of-a-kind project is a double CD featuring two versions of every song – one with Haynes singing and the other featuring a host of guest vocalists, including Dave Matthews, Ben Harper and Elvis Costello.
“Making Shout! a double CD with guests was a cool way to mark our 20th anniversary,” says Haynes. “Each song has it its own personality; it sounds like Gov’t Mule but doesn’t sound like anything we had ever done. The songs cover a lot of the influences that have made Gov’t Mule what we are from the beginning. I think it’s the most diverse record we’ve made. These new archival live releases just further that concept and allow us to highlight some of our influences as well as how far we’ve come since the first album.”
Indeed, it would have been hard for those listening to Gov’t Mule’s self-titled debut, filled with thunderous power trio rumblings of Haynes, bassist Allen Woody and drummer Matt Abts, to envision them remaining true to this original vision, while also expanding to include reggae and horn-driven, backup singer-sweetened, classic rock covers by Pink Floyd and the Rolling Stones, but that’s the tricky feat the band has pulled off, as illustrated by their upcoming live albums.
“I wouldn’t recommend any of these releases as a starting point,” says Haynes. “But I would strongly recommend all of them to anyone who already knows the band. They capture different sides of us and each also features us playing very different sets of our own music as well.”
Gov’t Mule was formed in 1994 when Haynes and bassist Allen Woody were playing in the Allman Brothers Band and talking about their shared passion for old school power trios.
“We were listening to a lot of Led Zeppelin, Cream and Free, caught up in the musical freedom they displayed,” says Haynes.
Haynes called up drummer Matt Abts, with whom he had played in the Dickey Betts Band. The band recorded three increasingly ambitious studio albums and performed countless shows before Woody died in August, 2000. After briefly pausing to ponder their next move, Haynes and Abts began recording The Deep End, two CDs featuring guest bassists, ranging from the Who’s John Entwistle to the Grateful Dead’s Phil Lesh.
“Everything we’ve done collectively has led up to where we are now,” says Haynes. “But those Deep End sessions, and the experience of playing with so many bassists and adapting to different sounds and approaches had a profound effect on Gov’t Mule and what we’ve done since.”
Louis, a longtime collaborator, became a full-time member of Gov’t Mule in 2001, and the group has been a four-piece ever since. Bassist Carlsson has been with the group since 2008, solidifying the lineup.
“I think a lot of the music we’re doing now is very similar to the music we were making in the earliest years with the obvious exception that we are no longer a trio,” says Haynes. “In some ways we’ve come full circle and in other ways it only makes sense if you step back and connect the dots. And that seems right to me. You want to keep growing and you never want to be static, or done changing.”