Review: Govt Mule- Peace…Like A River

Warren Haynes must not sleep. It’s the only explanation I can come up with for his prodigious output. The Grammy-Award winning vocalist, producer, songwriter, and all around guitar hero is getting ready to release his 12th studio album with his long time band Gov’t. Mule on June 16th via Fantasy Records Peace…Like a River was recorded at the Power Station in New England with co-producer John Paterno and at the same time, Warren had another studio room set-up with different equipment/gear where he was also recording his last release Heavy Load Blues. But this is just par-for-the course for Warren, who typically has 2-3 different things going on at once. For example, he and his band Gov’t. Mule would often open shows for the Allman Brothers, while Warren was also playing guitar for the Allman Brothers. He just played on Willie Nelson’s 90th birthday bash, CMT Music Awards’ Lynyrd Skynyrd tribute AND is featured on Dolly Parton’s upcoming, highly anticipated rock album Rockstar – the guy just loves to play guitar!. The 12 tracks of this new album are all solid and each tune deserves a listen. Here are some highlights from my preview of the album… The first track, “Same As It Ever Was” opens with some nice acoustic work before dynamically progressing to a full on rocker with a smokin’ organ solo from keyboard player Danny Lovis. Next up is “Shake Your Way Out” featuring Billy F. Gibbons from ZZ Top on a snake-boogie shuffle that would not have appeared out of place on any early ZZ Top album. “Made My Peace” is the opus; clocking in at just over nine minutes with a Beatlesque melody and Pink Floydish vocals culminating in an extended piano/guitar outro. “Peace I Need” is straight up vintage Mule with hard driving guitar, bass & drums throughout. Thematically this album explores some of the seismic changes the world has gone through in recent years – from the strummed acoustic sadness of “Your Only Friend” to the powerful and hopeful message of “Dreaming Out Loud”, Warren is not afraid to take a look and comment on what is socially relevant today. “Dreaming out Loud” features Ivan Neville and Ruthie Foster with lyrics woven together from quotes by MLK Jr.,Robert & John F. Kennedy, and John Lewis, punched out with the addition of a funky, smokin’ hot horn section. Diverse influences abound as Track 7, “Head Full of Thunder” features crunchy, arena rock style power chords and is then followed by the bass driven atmospheric reggae of “The River Only Flows One Way” featuring guest vocalist Billy Bob Thorton. “After the Storm” has a fusion feel anchored by drummer Matt Abts fluid cymbal and drum work, bassist Jorgan Carlsson’s low-end and featuring some stunning interplay between Warren’s guitar and Danny’s organ. “Just Across The River” is a powerful song in the vein of The Staples Singers gospel soul with Warren as “Pops” and Celisse (recently seen on Austin City Limits and debut solo album out soon) channeling Mavis Staples and making it all her own. More social commentary from Warren is highlighted in the message of “Long Time Coming”  hearkening back to the protest songs of the sixties. The album wraps up with the classic road weary musician tune “Gone Too Long” highlighted by Warren’s fiery slide guitar work. It is worth noting that the Deluxe edition (cd only) features these original 12 tracks plus a special 5 track bonus EP Time of the Signs with 4 brand new unreleased tracks and an alternate version of “The River Only Flows One Way” with Warren taking lead vocal duties.  As always, Mule will be hitting the road this summer (back to that “no sleep” concept). Word is you may be able to catch a set of Gov’t. Mule tunes AND a set of “Dark Side of the Mule” (Warren & band performing tunes from the Pink Floyd classic Dark Side of the Moon) all in one night. I look forward to catching Peace…Like A River live as well as tunes from the Heavy Load Blues release. Overall, I felt it was a great mix and really enjoyed the album. It will definitely be in high rotation for me this summer. Don’t miss Gov’t. Mule if they are appearing near you as this will be the last opportunity to catch “Dark Side of the Mule”. For more information on Gov’t. Mule’s touring schedule, make sure to check the website or local listings for a show near you. Peace…Like A River Track Listing
  2. SHAKE OUR WAY OUT (featuring Billy F. Gibbons)
  6. DREAMING OUT LOUD (featuring Ivan Neville & Ruthie Foster)
  8. THE RIVER ONLY FLOWS ONE WAY (featuring Billy Bob Thorton)
  10. JUST ACROSS THE RIVER (featuring Celisse)
Gov\’t Mule – Making Peace…Like a River -Dawne Pixie Meyers