Gov’t Mule — Heavy Load Blues
Throughout the history of Gov’t Mule, blues has been a thread that has run through the band’s sound. Over the course of 20 live and studio albums, the band has covered some classic blues tunes like “Look on Yonder Wall” in its own style.
On the new album Heavy Load Blues (Fantasy Records), the band fully embraces the blues, not just to the point that they cover classic blues tunes, although the album does include covers of songs by Howlin’ Wolf and Junior Wells, among others. The band’s commitment to a traditional blues sound on this album led them to record it live at The Power Station New England on analog tape with vintage guitars. If you’ve always loved the blues aspect of Gov’t Mule and wished they would display it more, rest assured that you have come to the right place.
The album begins with “Blues Before Sunrise,” and it announces that you can expect a generous dose of the blues on this album. The guitar sounds a lot like Elmore James while Matt Abts keeps a steady beat and Danny Louis plays a piano part that is similar to a lot of what you hear from your favorite classic blues artists. The song also features a harmonica part that is noticeable, but remains a background sound. It’s a very good opening track to catch the listener’s attention.
“Snatch It Back and Hold It” comes the closest to what you would expect from this band. The sound is pretty true to the original by Junior Wells. The guitar is clean, and Abts and Carlsson push the song along at a steady pace. What makes this the most like a Gov’t Mule song is the spontaneous jam that occurs in the middle. Between the guitar and the soulful organ, you can’t help but ride the groove in the jam that helps push the song to nearly eight minutes.
If acoustic blues is more your jam, “Heavy Load” is the song for you. This one features just some good guitar picking and vocals. It’s interesting to hear Haynes play a song so stripped down because it’s so different than what you normally hear from this band. It shows that he is just as good at jamming in front of thousands of people as he would be singing on a front porch.
“I Asked For Water (She Gave Me Gasoline)” is an interesting take on the Howlin’ Wolf song. There is a Led Zeppelin vibe running through this song. You can hear it in the tone of the guitar, the pounding rhythm, and the organ that mirrors the sound from the guitar. With its hard-rock feel, this song is not unlike what Clutch has done with some blues classics.
Heavy Load Blues isn’t your typical Gov’t Mule album, that much is true. But it is an excellent exploration of the blues by musicians that really know their stuff. After this, you might wish for more blues albums from this band. Also, if you buy the deluxe edition, you’ll get eight additional tracks that aren’t available on the standard version.
Warren Haynes – guitar, vocals
Matt Abts – drums
Danny Louis, guitar, keyboards, backing vocals
Jorgen Carlsson – bass