It's unclear why Volume 3 of Warren Haynes' annual Christmas show (recorded December 2001), took three additional years for an official CD release after Vols. 1 & 2 (from 1999 and 2000 performances) were made available in 2007. Regardless, this edition, finally available commercially in 2010, follows the same basic template as the gigs and the previous two discs: it's a double package that begins unplugged and builds up steam culminating in a final all-star collective that closes the second platter. Haynes is never far from the festivities, adding his licks and/or gruff voice to the sets of Blues Traveler, Phil Lesh & Friends, and of course Gov't Mule. Alvin Youngblood Hart kicks things off with traditional Delta blues, Edwin McCain appears next and is joined by guitarist Jimmy Herring and others. That's followed by Drivin' N Cryin' who charge into their two biggest tunes, and Blues Traveler, whose frantic four-song, 25-minute performance, featuring Popper's jittery more-notes-per-second harp solos, end the first disc. Disc two is dedicated to the Grateful Dead's Lesh, whose band Haynes toured with that year, along with Gov't Mule and a closing all-in blowout on Neil Young's "Rockin' in the Free World," the only subtle acknowledgment to the September 11 events that occurred just a few months before. The jam factor is high throughout, a mixed blessing on what seems to be an interminable 12-minute acoustic version of McCain's "Alone" that feels nearly twice as long, as well as some of the BT material. That's to be expected of Lesh and his group, though, whose contributions make up approximately a half-hour on disc 2. Haynes' work, both vocally and on guitar, energizes and often focuses what can be meandering Dead-styled material. Gov't Mule is no stranger to improvisation either, albeit in a harder style, as they grind out spirited, gutsy, extended versions of their own "Blind Man in the Dark," "Sco-Mule," and a rollicking cover of David Crosby's "Almost Cut My Hair," the latter featuring sacred steel whiz Robert Randolph and Widespread Panic's Dave Schools. Any fan of Haynes and his diverse musical associations will find lots to like here, and since the proceeds benefit Habitat for Humanity, others can feel good cherrypicking from over two hours of energetic, passionate music, all recorded live on a single night with no overdubs.
AllMusic Review by Hal Horowitz
Track Listing - Disc 1
Track Listing - Disc 2