No Swayback in this Mule
So the southern rock donkey and the alt-rock horse got together and made themselves a Gov’t Mule. It’s strong, it’s friendly. Is it sterile? Hopefully not, as there’s such a thing as carrying a metaphor too far. In any event, the Allman Brothers Band’s spinoff recently released Shout, their tenth full-length studio album, and it’s definitely worth a listen.
It’s not quite right to label Shout a throwback. Granted, it’s hard not to hear the echo of heyday southern rock reverberating through the album. Blues-inspired lyrics and compositions permeate the album. Six-minute guitar solos are also present, something sure to delight Allman Brothers aficionados. It’s a little weird to hear Warren Haynes cutting loose without Dicky Betts to follow him, but there’s no denying the quality of his work on songs such as album standout “Captured,” an unabashedly nostalgic rocker with a glorious, endless guitar solo.
Gov’t Mule was formed as a jam band and it has obviously stayed true to its roots-– the best moments on Shout come when the band lapses into lengthy, sprawling instrumental sections. Another highlight comes near the end of down-tempo track “When the World Gets Small” when Haynes and keyboardist Danny Louis combine for an undeniably gorgeous trading solos section. Haynes’ vocals often take a back seat to his guitar, and he occasionally struggles to pull off the tender moments in the album. But, this is Shout, after all. Tender moments don’t exactly predominate, and Haynes is at his best in roaring rockers like “Done Got Wise,” with its swaggering, screw-you chorus.
The free second disk included with Shout is an intriguing puzzle. Gov’t Mule brought on some all-stars to cover their songs, no doubt about it. Ben Harper, Elvis Costello, Myles Kennedy-– the list goes on. Hard to go wrong with names like those, right? Sort of. The second disk has its ups and downs. Costello sneers his way through his version of “Funny Little Tragedy” with aplomb, and Dr. John puts much needed sleaze into “Stoop So Low.” Myles Kennedy also pulls his weight on “Done Got Wise,” giving the song a quavery spin appropriate for its achy-breaky heart motif. On the other hand, Ben Harper just sounds thin on “World Boss,” a sledgehammer of a song in Haynes’ hands. And Dave Matthews makes “Forsaken Saviour” sound like nothing more than a mediocre Dave Matthews song, rather than a cover of fresh material.