After more than 25 years as a band, Gov’t Mule is still breaking new ground. Today (November 12th) marks the release of Heavy Load Blues, the Warren Haynes-led quartet’s first-ever blues album. Stream the full project below.
A project like Heavy Load Blues has been on Haynes’ mind for many years, but he wasn’t sure if fellow Gov’t Mule members Matt Abts (drums), Danny Louis (keyboards, guitar, backing vocals), and Jorgen Carlsson (bass) would be into the idea. While talking to the band’s manager about their next album, however, she suggested they do a blues record and that settled it.
“We play some traditional blues on stage from time to time and although it’s usually never more than a few songs per show, our approach to the blues is unique and based on our collective chemistry as a band,” Haynes explains in a statement. “In hindsight, I’m so glad that it turned out this way.”
Featuring a mix of original material and covers made famous by artists like Elmore James, Junior Wells, Bobby “Blue” Bland, Tom Waits, and Howlin’ Wolf, Heavy Load Blues was recorded by Gov’t Mule directly to tape using vintage guitars, amps, and other equipment to create an authentic sound. “For the most part, everything we used was older than me,” quips Haynes.
“I’m actually surprised that I had written as many blues songs as I had during the pandemic because I don’t tend to write a ton of traditional blues type material,” Haynes says. “I have written a handful through the years, but it worked out great because from the beginning, the intent was to make this more of a traditional blues record and not just have a blues influence on it.”
Below the stream, Haynes gives Consequence an exclusive breakdown of five artists that inspired Heavy Load Blues, all of whom Gov’t Mule covered on their latest effort.
Physical copies of the album are available here. To close out the year, Gov’t Mule are playing their annual New Year’s Run. The three-night stand kicks off at The Met in Philadelphia on December 29th before back-to-back shows at New York City’s Beacon Theatre. Tickets are available for purchase at Ticketmaster.
Known as the “father of electric slide guitar,” Elmore is also one of my all-time favorite singers. The combination of his unique, powerful voice (that was recorded in a distorted fashion on those early records) along with his groundbreaking slide guitar style influenced and inspired countless musicians and singers that came later and I’m definitely no exception. Gov’t Mule has covered several Elmore James songs on stage but never “Blues Before Sunrise.” We wanted to capture not only the spirit of his original performance but the way it sounded as well.
I’ve always loved the Junior Wells with Buddy Guy album, Hoodoo Man Blues, which was recorded in 1965. That album influenced guitar greats like Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, and Duane Allman which in turn influenced a whole generation. Although I’ve had the pleasure of performing several times with Buddy Guy, I only played on stage once with Junior Wells at the legendary Checkerboard Lounge in Chicago at the wedding of longtime Allman Brothers tour manager Kirk West (crazy, I know!). It was an unforgettable moment as was paying tribute to him with our version of “Snatch It Back and Hold It.”
Bobby “Blue” Bland:
One of all the all-time great blues singers Bobby “Blue” Bland had a smooth, raspy voice that was instantly recognizable. Gov’t Mule has performed “Ain’t No Love In The Heart of the City” a few times and I also performed it with the Allman Brothers Band a handful of times where myself and Gregg Allman (who was also a huge Bobby “Blue” Bland fan) would trade verses and harmonize in the choruses. Including our version here represents the more rhythm and blues side of the blues although it gets pretty intense towards the end.
Not what you think of when you think of blues artists, but Tom Waits, aside from being in the Pantheon of American songwriters, has written many songs that adhere to the blues form. We’ve covered several Tom Waits songs on stage but never “Make It Rain.” It seemed appropriate for this record not to limit our cover choices to songs by traditional blues artists and we honored the original version while putting our own slant on it.
I don’t know for sure, but I think that Tom Waits would probably agree that Howlin’ Wolf was the heaviest of the blues giants. On this album, we wanted to take a different approach to each song and chose to perform some in a way that was very similar to the original recording while others are completely different. Oddly enough this version of the Wolf song “I Asked Her For Water” was the first song we recorded for Heavy Load Blues and it’s also the heaviest and most different from the original version. We captured the first and only take which sort of set the tone and raised the bar for the entire album.