Rock bands cut from the blues: Gov’t Mule joins ZZ Top at the Pinewood Bowl on Sunday | Music

Putting Gov’t Mule on the same bill with ZZ Top makes perfect sense for Warren Hayes.

“We’ve done quite a few shows with them in the past,” the Gov’t Mule frontman said. “We are old friends. It’s kind of a great musical evening. I think both bands are an extension of the blues. We are both rock bands cut off from the blues.

“I’ve been a blues lover all my life and I’ve always loved playing the blues. Gov’t Mule, more specifically, the blues is a big part of the sound, but we’re not a blues band. We are very influenced by blues, but also jazz, soul and all sorts of other things.

The blues, however, will be in the spotlight when the Mule take to the stage at the Pinewood Bowl on Sunday before the small group from Texas closes the show.

That’s because Gov’t Mule’s new album is “Heavy Load Blues”, a collection of covers of songs by Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, Junior Wells, Bobby “Blue” Bland and that blues duo of Elton John and Bernie Taupin, with some Haynes originals.

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It was recorded for six weeks during the pandemic, allowing Haynes to tick his “blues album” box off his list of records he wants to make – a jazz excursion is likely next – while cutting a rock record which will be released later this or early next year.

“We did two back-to-back albums in the same time frame,” Haynes said. “The mission was to find a studio that could accommodate two people. We found it at the New England Power Station. There was a large room, where we set up all the usual Gov’t Mule gear, and a small room with a low ceiling where we set up vintage amps and guitars, recorded in analog to tape, completely live.

“We would come in at noon and start recording the normal stuff, if that’s the word, Gov’t Mule. We would do that from noon until 8 or 9 at night, we would take a break and go to the blues room and play blues until 1 p.m. You don’t want to play blues during the day… I don’t know what I would recommend doing that normally, but during the lockdown it was perfect.

The recording sessions gave Haynes, a classic road warrior, something to do after the pandemic ripped him off the stage for more than a year.

“It’s the longest time I haven’t played since I was 15,” said the 62-year-old.

At age 15, Haynes was playing in his hometown of Asheville, North Carolina. At 20, he joined country outlaw David Allen Coe’s band, where he spent four years and then quite successfully co-wrote “Two of Kind, Working on a Full House,” which Garth Brooks rose to the top of the country charts in 1991.

In 1987, Haynes teamed up with Allman Brothers Band guitarist Dickey Betts in his band. When the Allmans reunited two years later, Betts brought Haynes on the venerable Southern rock band’s second guitar slice.

Seven years later, Haynes and Allman Brothers bassist Allen Woody put together Gov’t Mule as a side project, along with drummer Matt Abts, letting them fulfill their power trio rock dreams. Haynes left the Allmans in 1997 to go full-time with the Mule.

When Betts left the Allmans in 2001, Hayes returned, sharing guitar duties with Derek Trucks until the Allmans Brothers Band ended with their departure in 2014.

The Mule, however, continued to run with Haynes returning to the band. It now has nine studio albums and 11 live records, proof of the band’s connection to its audience through its legendary jam-filled live performances.

ZZ Top will play Lincoln’s ninth show and third at Pinewood on Sunday

Those shows came to an abrupt end in March 2020. After the recording session, Gov’t Mule was able to resume touring last year – “We did nine weeks in a COVID bubble, testing every day, with no friends or family backstage, and walked through without anyone getting COVID,” Haynes said. But the COVID-19 spike of late 2021 forced the band to cancel their winter tour.

“We’re finally getting back to what we love to do, which is touring and playing music,” Haynes said, adding that the band is getting back to its old rhythm of hosting and playing shows.

“We do a different set list every night,” he said. “We won’t know what we’re going to do until just before the show. Usually we would look and see what we had done in this area before, so as not to repeat ourselves. But it’s been so long since we’ve been to some of these places, we’re starting over with a clean slate.”

“When we’re there (in Lincoln) we’ll do a lot of ‘Heavy Load Blues’ songs and some from all phases of our career and see how that connects with the audience. You rely mainly on past experience. But sometimes you think it’s going to work and it doesn’t. We can call an audible, go in a whole different direction, depending on the energy coming from the crowd.

Riding the crowd’s energy is part of how Gov’t Mule creates the shows that, night after night, transport the band and fans into jam band nirvana.

“A lot of what we do is improvisation,” Haynes said. “The best that can be is to lose yourself completely in the music. Fortunately, we have an audience pushing us in that direction. We’re all going through it at the same time – the audience pushes us to go as far as we can.

“The more you play together, the more you are able to collectively have these kinds of moments. I have been lucky enough to be in several groups where this has been the case.

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Contact the writer at 402-473-7244 or [email protected]. On Twitter @KentWolgamott

Virginia F. Goins