Gov’t Mule — Jones Assembly in OKC
Gov’t Mule rolled into Oklahoma City this past Tuesday night delivering their “Heavy Load Blues” to a nearly packed house at the beautiful Jones Assembly on the outskirts of downtown. Touring in support of their 12th studio release, Heavy Load Blues, released back in November of 2021 on Fantasy Records, and perhaps surprisingly, is Mule’s first actual blues album. Originally formed back in 1994 Mule was as a power trio, until original bassist Allen Woody’s death in 2000. Here in 2022, Gov’t Mule is now a well rounded and efficient quartet, that features original members Warren Haynes on vocals and guitar and Matt Abts on drums, joined by Danny Louis on keyboards and guitar, as well as Jorgen Carrlson on bass.
This was the band’s first return to OKC since 2014, and it was nice to see the fan base out supporting one of the best bands playing on any given night. Kicking things off with a blistering “Mr. Man” Haynes and band romped through a two set excursion through their catalog, as well as brilliant covers and as always, teases and jams tucked here and there. Within the first set, highlights included a fun “Don’t Step On the Grass Sam,” a Steppenwolf cover the band’s been playing since their inception. Also noteworthy, “Little Toy Brain” from their 2004 Deja Voodoo release, and a take on Sonny Boy Williams classic “Good Morning Little Schoolgirl,” and a set closing trifecta “Mule>Whole Lotta Love>Mule” that was only marred by an entire lighting system failure leaving the band to play much of the trio in the dark. A spooky side note, which Haynes detailed to the audience; back in 2004 at a different venue, and the first time the band ever played OKC, they opened with “Mule” only to blow the entire electrical system, picking up right where they left off once power was restored. You can’t make these kinds of things up!
The band returned after a short break with the lights back in order, and in the only critique I have, missed a golden opportunity to make a setlist deviation and play “Blind Man in the Dark.” In fact, I found it quite odd that we didn’t get a single song off the band’s second, and my personal favorite album, Dose.
Instead, they launched into “Blues Before Sunrise,” a deep blues cut from Heavy Load Blues originally performed by bluesman Leroy Carr, followed by James Brown’s “Doing it to Death.” The Allman Brothers Band’s “Come and Go Blues” made its appearance, and there was also a wondrous cover of Tom Waits and Kathleen Brennan’s “Make it Rain” (also on Heavy Load Blues).
Bob Marley and the Wailers’ “Lively Up Yourself” was a recurring jam theme for much of the set, and another Zeppelin tease, this time “In My Time of Dying” tucked into “So Weak, So Strong,” before “Dark Was the Night, Cold was the Ground” closed the set. The band returned for a two song encore
of “Fallen Down” and an instrumental “The Other One” that just plain smoked, complete with a Stones “Gimme Shelter” ending that has to be heard to be believed.
As I mentioned before, on any given night Gov’t Mule is one of the best bands out there on the road, and that’s been true for quite a while. If you’ve never seen them, you simply have to. Warren Haynes is one of the premier purveyors and curators of the Rock-n-Roll songbook. Mule often get lumped into the “jam band” category, and I think that’s quite a disservice. Just a glance through their setlists on this, or any tour is mind blowing for their depth of knowledge of the music we all know and love. This short end of summer tour will be wrapping up by the time you read this, but fear not, the mighty Gov’t Mule will be back on the road in the fall, including their “Mule-o-ween” (Spinal Tap theme!) show in New Orleans on October 29th, and their legendary Island Exodus in Jamaica this coming January. Keep up to date with everything Gov’t Mule by visiting their webpage here: https://mule.net/