Thursday, October 22, 2009

Disc of the Day: Gov't Mule, By a Thread

Warren Haynes and Co. deliver one of their finest studio sets yet with the new By a Thread. Click here to read my review online at Las Vegas City Life, or see the full text below.

Gov't Mule
By a Thread
(Evil Teen Records)

Given his multiple residencies in Gov't Mule, the Allman Brothers and the Dead, and his own forthcoming solo recording, Warren Haynes could be the hardest-working man in jam business.

Lesser guitar-playing mortals might be stretched thin by those demands, but not so Haynes: He and his Gov't Mule bandmates -- longtime drummer Matt Abts, keyboardist Danny Lewis, new bassist Jorgen Carlsson -- sound rejuvenated on their first studio recording since 2007's dub-edged Mighty High.

That freshness owes in part to the band's refusal to work within strict musical confines. Metallic bass crunch, a heavy backbeat and the sound of pick scraping string signal the start of opener "Broke Down on the Brazos"; Haynes' leathery vocals tell a tale of desperation, followed by a nasty extended six-string exchange with Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top.

Jimi Hendrix is writ large on the acid-washed "Any Open Window," its relentless blues-rock riff tinted with overdrive and wah-wah. Cathedral organ opens and closes "Gordon James," an unplugged-to-electric lament about merchants of war, and "Steppin' Lightly" flourishes on a circling figure and a big, catchy chorus.

Tying it all together are Haynes' sweet and tart slide lines, soulful singing on lyrics reflecting spiritual malaise, and fat Southern-fried grooves.

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