It was exactly one year ago today that rock and blues quartet
Gov’t Mule stomped through Ann Arbor’s Michigan
Theater. Back then, Mule’s big story was that their search to
replace the late bassist Allen Woody had come to a close with
veteran string-thumper Andy Hess. Joining original members Matt
Abts (drums) and Warren Haynes (guitar, vocals), Hess and
keyboardist Danny Louis filled out the sound left behind by
Woody.

This year, The Mule returns to the Michigan Theater, finally
getting settled as a band and embarking on a cross-country tour
backed by their latest studio work, Déjà
Voodoo
.

The decision to switch from a power trio to a quartet after
Woody’s death could be viewed as an homage to his aggressive
sound. “It seemed unfair to the band, to the new bass player,
to the audience and to the music to continually be comparing the
past to the present to the future,” testifies frontman Warren
Haynes. “What you lost is forever lost. You’re trying
to replace that with something new.”

Despite his regular gig with the Allman Brothers Band, Haynes
chose to continue with Gov’t Mule after Woody’s death
because he realized what opportunities might have been missed had
he and Abts decided to split. Haynes notes, “It finally
dawned on me that the only reason I really knew Allen Woody is
because the Allman Brothers continued after losing Duane Allman and
Berry Oakley.” Gov’t Mule are a more personal project
for Haynes — something over which he has infinite creative
control. “It’s the place that allows me to write and
perform songs in any way I see fit. It’s my
laboratory.”

Though the songwriting on Déjà Voodoo rocks
hard, it doesn’t compare to the live experience, especially
with a performer like Haynes taking center stage.

Aside from his regular gigs with Mule and the Allman Brothers
Band, Haynes has toured with The Dead and jammed with cats like
John Scofield and Bernie Worrell. But he just figures that the long
hours are his responsibility as someone endowed with speedy fingers
and a gritty blues voice. “Music is not like digging a ditch.
It’s fun, and for people like myself that are blessed the
ability to do what we love for a living, that’s something you
can’t take for granted.”

It’s never easy to explain why someone like Haynes sounds
as good as he does on his instrument, but he thinks he may have an
idea. “We’re all products of our influences. I know
that the types of soloists that I enjoy are musicians that sing
through their instruments and have that vocal-like quality.
That’s what I’ve always tried to achieve for
myself.”

Haynes’s signature style, along with the bands collective
taste for improvisation, means that there should never be a dull
sonic moment on stage. “To me, the ultimate is to walk away
(from a show) knowing that you just saw something that will never
happen again, so we take a different approach night after
night.” With that mentality in mind, there should be plenty
of repeat customers from last year, looking for another share of
The Mule at tomorrow night’s show.

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