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Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2010

Gov’t Mule

By a Thread (Evil Teen)

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While Widespread Panic packs the Riverside Theater for three-night residencies, and the Black Crowes maintain name recognition and album sales, those in the know give Gov’t Mule the nod as titleholder of all things crunchy, power blues-rock—at least if you consider those in the know to be the beer drinkers and hell raisers of ZZ Top’s world, not the tie-dyed masses oft-associated with guitarist/singer Warren Haynes’ side project.

From the incessant, thumping bass drive, to the greasy Southern riffage, to the random, strangely specific title and lyrics of opener “Broke Down on the Brazos,” the Mule seems an obvious bastard child of Billy Gibbons—likely resultant of a particularly depraved bender. The snaking guitar hook of “Steppin’ Lightly” sounds like a cousin of “Just Got Paid,” and “Any Open Window” feels like an amped-up rehash of “I’m Bad, I’m Nationwide.” But Haynes also leans heavily on his more lucrative gig with the Allman Brothers Band: His throaty growl borrows some leftover gristle off of Gregg Allman’s voice, and he offers the same adventurous sense of arrangement that separates the Brothers from the rest of their jammy lot.

So, sure, it’s complex. But at heart, that marriage between classic rock and Southern-fried white-boy blues is basically one of good-timey, back-porch soul. So maybe when it’s done as well as this, analysis should go on hold while we sit back and crack open another.

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