Gov’t Mule- Live at Roseland Ballroom
Big name jam bands are pretty much a thing of the past. Phish broke up in 2004. And Jerry Garcia’s death really hampered The Grateful Dead. In an age where most music is scripted and very rarely even slightly adjusted for live performance, there are always certain albums that stand out simply due to the amount of emotion that can only come from just playing what you feel, and not looking back.
Gov’t Mule is a modern day jam band, and Live At Roseland Ballroom
is one of those albums. On this, their sophomore album they pull off some of the most amazing jamming I have heard for a while. Warren Haynes and Allen Woody had a certain chemistry live after playing for 8 years together while they were still in The Allman Brothers Band. (Warren is still part of TABB, But unfortunately Allen passed away in 2000)
The chemistry between these two friends along with drummer Matt Abts shows through on this album VERY well. Studio Gov’t Mule is one thing, live is a complete new plateau of awesome. On the intro track “Trane” they simply jam for almost 17 minutes, feeding off of each other constantly and only taking one break roughly midway through the song. And it is really amazing listening to the Haynes’ guitar work and thinking, Where is that lick from" And then realizing where it was from.
But then it’s time to get down to business, “Temporary Saint” brings forth some simpler guitar playing on the part of Haynes, but it really shows the power behind his rough, southern voice. This also where the quality is really amazing, most live albums (even ones released by the record labels) don’t have quality anywhere near how clear and full this album sounds.
That song is followed by the southern rock masterpiece “Painted Silver Light”. Despite Warren Haynes apologizing in the linear notes for his guitar being out of tune on this song, he had no real need to apologize. The bass on this song is what stands out the most; it sounds a lot of Iron Maiden’s Steve Harris. The galloping rhythm is oh so catchy. This song turns in to somewhat of a ballad, frequently just leaving Haynes’ voice over the drums. Again, this song has a real crushing feel during the solo, and Warren’s playing is so unique it’s almost impossible to compare him to any other player.
Reaching back into their influences, they also perform a cover of Steppenwolf’s “Don’t Step On the Grass Sam”. If you have never heard the original before, you would have no idea they didn’t write it. They definitely put their own unique spin on it, including southern swagger and classy drumming. It’s also mighty hard not to sing along during the chorus line of “Don’t step On the Grass Sam!” which has some sort of walkie talkie effect on vocals, and makes it really stand out.
It’s jam time again! On “Kind of Bird” it’s easy to see why people prefer Mule’s skilled improv sessions as opposed to their equally skilled songs that are pre-planned. As always during the jam track, Woody is on top of his game providing a bassline that would be good enough on it’s own, but the way Hayne’s plays guitar over it is simply majestic. You can sense just how much fun they were having simply by listening to the track, and it was this happiness and respect for each other that fueled all of Gov’t Mule’s jams.
They closed off the amazing New Year’s eve show with a song from their self-titled album, “Mule”. This is a very Allman brothers-esque song, a high-energy southern rocker. With some sweet slide licks every so often, just as the cherry on top of the already very tasty cake.
Pros- Amazing guitar playing, Bass is tops and Hayne’s has a real nice voice
Cons- Some of the non-jam songs sound slightly boring compared to the jammier songs, and the drumming isn’t that hot.
“Trane” and “Kind Of Bird”
4/5 (if this was simply 56 minutes of pure jammage, it would be 5/5)