The Georgia Bootleg Box (Evil Teen Records)
The three-show span in Georgia features the original lineup of Haynes, the late Allen Woody on bass and drummer Matt Abts, and covers consecutive nights in Athens, Atlanta and Macon in 1996. It was a simpler time, before jam bands were such a universally accepted pain in the neck, and certainly before that lot was littered with wankers. And though the current incarnation might now be thrown in with the rest of the patchouli-heads, here the Mule comes on like a band more into beer than psychedelics, more into Coltrane (“Trane”) than Bill Monroe banjo noodlery, and most into an Allmans-derived interpretation of old-timey Americana blues (“She’s 19 Years Old”).
Still, noodle they do. Long, gritty tangents and greasy six-string wanderings have varying degrees of success—often dependent on the listener’s level of intoxication. There’s the Dead’s “St. Stephen,” Tom Waits’ “Goin’ Out West” and an epic reading of Little Feat’s “Spanish Moon” all on the good side. But when the boys sound most at home is on a hard, Southern-fried groove (“Mule” or the Top’s “Just Got Paid”), Haynes bellowing from way down deep in his considerable and soulful gut.
At such length and sweaty
intensity, this is a collection undoubtedly for the completist. But it’s
also a righteously thorough documentation of the formative period of one
of the last great Southern rock bands, from a time when their future seemed all
Blue Sky and Dreams.