Warren Haynes has been almost ubiquitous since he joined the Allman Brothers Band, and formed Gov't Mule with Allen Woody and Matt Abts. He's played and collaborated with everyone from the Grateful Dead and Bob Dylan to Little Milton and Taj Mahal. Fans might be surprised to learn that Southern soul was an early love. But they shouldn't be. Man in Motion is Haynes' first conscious effort and to fully indulge his love for this music, and his first solo record with backing musicians since 1993. Co-produced with Gordie Johnson, Man in Motion boasts a stellar cast: George Porter, Jr. on bass, Ivan Neville on organ, clavinet, and backing vocals, Ian McLagan on Wurlitzer and piano, drummer Raymond Weber, tenor saxophonist Ron Holloway, and backing vocalist Ruthie Foster. Two surprises do occur on the title track that opens this set: how much Haynes has grown as a songwriter and as a singer. (He may argue, but it sounds like he's been influenced by Gregg Allman's phrasing and delivery; here he moves toward the groove in his lyrics, he doesn't try to shout them above it.) The track is tight; rhythmically pulsed lines in the verses give way to fills and swells by the band that resolve in the choruses. They funk it greasy à la the MG's, backed by a horn section (courtesy of the Grooveline Horns). Haynes lets his guitar talk, too, adding an edgy, raw heat in his solo to close it. The blues are evident in everything Haynes plays here, and he plays plenty. On "River's Gonna Rise," a gospel vamp leads into an easy, dark-tinged funkiness. Haynes' singing is as emotive as it is tough; he lets his guitar engage freely with both keyboardists, trading fills. Foster and Neville are excellent backing foils. This is only the beginning of the many delights here. Check the nasty, tightrope-walking Meters-like funk on "Sick of My Shadow"; the blues-drenched strut in "On a Real Lonely Night" (with its killer keyboard interplay); the soaring emotion of Holloway's sax dueling for dominance with Haynes' vocal on "In Your Wildest Dreams" and "A Friend to You"; and Haynes' greasy urgency in the Wilson Pickett-flavored "Take a Bullet." Man in Motion's lone cover, a reading of William Bell's and Booker T. Jones' ballad, "Everyday Will Be a Holiday," showcases Haynes' voice and guitar as the foundations of a deeply emotional palette the band paints upon. Man in Motion is a record that adds a new subtitle to Haynes' musical portrait: that of a soul man.
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AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek