Gov’t Mule front man Warren Haynes treated Cleveland to another night of guitar-powered rock and roll Friday night at House of Blues.
Renowned for his work with David Allen Coe and The Allman Brothers Band (and a host of other jam-savvy artists) Haynes served up several tracks from his third solo album, Ashes & Dust (Concord Records)—but he scattered the material between electrifying covers, tweaking the strings of his Gibson Chet Atkins Les Paul guitar with trademark finesse.
Haynes recorded the Americana-flavored Ashes & Dust with New Jersey roots-rock band Railroad Earth and an all-star cast of guest singers. On the road, he’s backed by Nashville bluegrass ensemble Chess Boxer and drummer Jeff Sipe (of Aquarium Rescue Unit fame), and all six men were in fine form at the February 26th gig.
Surprisingly, Haynes and company kicked off the show with rousing “Jessica,” the familiar Dickey Betts-written instrumental from the Allmans’ 1973 effort Brothers and Sisters. Naturally, Haynes assumed lead guitar duties—but he mingled his measures with those of Chess Boxer boys Sterling Masat (guitar, mandolin), Matt Menefee (banjo), and Royal Masat (electric and upright bass), and Ross Holmes (fiddle / violin). Together, they made for a potent live unit whose string-marinated strains were swampier and more countrified than Haynes’ work with the Mule—but no less bluesy).
New cut “Is It Me or Is It You?” segued into Phil Lesh’s “Patchwork Quilt” and soulful “Beat Down the Dust.” The Band’s “Ophelia” and Little Feat’s “Skin It Back” were equally impressive, with Haynes alternating between soft coos and savage cries in his inimitable rasp on microphone and his fingers deftly maneuvering over his fret board (sometimes with a glass slide).
Dylan gem “You Ain’t Going Nowhere” was followed by a gritty “Stranded in Self-Pity” and effervescent “Company Man.” The Chess Boxer players (doing business as The Ashes & Dust Band) had plenty of space to stretch out, with Royal Masat nimbly thumping his bass strings and sibling Sterling Masat strumming both acoustic and electric guitars.
Menefee was a master on his five-string banjo, his percussive plucking the pepper that spiced “Friend of the Devil” (Grateful Dead) and “Instrumental Illness” (Allmans). Sipe indulged in a drum spotlight on the latter track, and the fellows teased with a snippet of Johnny Cash’s “Folsom County Blues.”
Later highlights included a run through Fleetwood Mac’s “Gold Dust Woman,” the Allmans’ “Blue Sky,” and the Haynes / Lesh collaboration “Spots of Time.”
The guys encored with an extended version of Tom Waits classic “Get Behind the Mule.”
Miss the show? No worries. The concert now is available for download in soundboard-quality mp3, FLAC, and ALAC files on Haynes’ website (see link below).
Download the February 26, 2016 House of Blues Cleveland show here: http://tinyurl.com/hyb54fw