Gov't Mule

High & Mighty

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Let's get this out of the way: Warren Haynes is a great guitar player. Gov't Mule was formed to showcase that talent, but since the death of Allen Woody, the Mule has become more of a band again with Haynes at the focus as opposed to just a rhythm section backing him. High & Mighty is the second release to feature Danny Louis and Andy Hess alongside Haynes and longtime drummer Matt Abts, and it continues on the course they charted with Déjà Voodoo. Playing with a myriad of bass players following the death of Allen Woody almost certainly helps push Gov't Mule in some new musical directions, and this new lineup keeps adding new elements to their sound. Sure, you get plenty of great guitar riffs and bluesy soloing, but the intro to "So Weak, So Strong" almost sounds like Ali Farka Toure (the dumbek of the first verse is a nice touch, too), and "Unring the Bell" is Mule-style reggae, complete with cavernous drums and trippy dub flourishes. There was also a certain funkiness that crept in on Déjà Voodoo, well manifested here in the bonus track, "3 String George," which sounds like an alternate universe Meters. And while there's nothing really overt, it seems that songs like "Like Flies" and "Unring the Bell" flirt with the political. Louis' keyboards play a mostly supporting role, though he gets a couple nice solos ("Brand New Angel" and "Brighter Days") and trades licks with Haynes on "Endless Parade." Of course, the rhythm section is rock-solid, but the star of the show is Warren Haynes with his soulful vocals and fantastic guitar playing. You won't get flashy showboating, just tough as nails playing free of rock guitar clichés. "Brand New Angel" and "Like Flies" both have some great meaty slide work too. Even though only three of the 12 tracks are shorter than five minutes, it's only on "Endless Parade" that one gets a sense that they're really stretching out thanks to Haynes' imaginative playing. There aren't many bands out there still working this type of tough rock & roll, and Haynes' talents put Gov't Mule at the top of that list.

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