The Mule has plenty of Fuel. Want to whip up a batch of Gov’t Mule stew? Mix up a pot full of ZZTop, Allman Bros, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Bad Co., The Doors & Mountain and douse with a generous splash of whiskey-soaked vocals. Take this potent concoction and let it smoke for about 3 hours on a stark stage while the ingredients, due to combustible properties, simmer to a boil and ultimately melt your insides.
The Mule went to School. The tenure of guitarist Warren Haynes and bassist Allen Woody in the Allman Bros clan clearly branded them as jamband soldiers fully armed with a sack full of lethal chops. And anyone who’s been to a Mule show knows that the riff-fueled carnage begins at note 1 and continues unabated until everyone’s ten-gallon hat has been filled way past the brim. Their over-the-counter live chronicles attest to this with songs knocking on the 30-minute door.
The Mule is way Cool. This is all well and good but the trade-off to this sensory assault is that the studio goblins have been somewhat unable to lasso the stubborn Mule! Well, that was how life was before Insanity. Gov’t Mule’s third studio album finds them finally translating the energy of the live experience into barnburners like “World Gone Wild” and “No Need To Suffer” which will light unsuspecting speakers aflame. And I don’t even need to waste space trying to convince you that a song entitled “Bad Little Doggie” is, indeed, a mean, tight, butt shakin’ boogie. This newfound realization is compounded by the enormity of the reality that the live show will escort these studio tracks to the outer stratosphere before torpedoing them back upon throngs of the faithful, standing motionless, with their mouths gaping wide open.
The Mule is no Fool. These guys also know when to pull the hot rod off to the side of the road for a brief stroll through the wilderness. The intimate introspective landscape on “Tastes Like Wine” sounds as if a man is singing his final refrain, searching for the answer to a life-long question that will never be revealed. And when pianist Johnny Neel joins on “Fallen Down”, the sound of the organ adds that crucial missing ambiance, and a projection of the lonely feeling associated with the longing brought about by unfulfilled dreams is overwhelmingly evident.
The Mule pick from the talent Pool. Just when you thought the Gov’t couldn’t Mule-tate any further, they do. Enter one Mr. Ben Harper, lap steel in place, full of sublime inspiration as he dishes out soulful vocal embodiments for all on “Lay Your Burden Down”. It’s SO heavy.
The Mule Rule! With each step forward, the dynamic buzzard rock on Life Before Insanity lays a foundation for Haynes (who writes the majority of lyrics and music) to expound his, at times, bleak and desolate view of the world. An award-winning recipe that pleases throughout, with his slide guitar playing a consistent highlight, but as one chugs through track after track, the only question really on my mind is...can they pull it off live? You bet your Bad Little Doggie they can.
Rating 5 out of 5 stars.
Tracks: Wandering Child/ Life Before Insanity/ Bad Little Doggie/ Lay Your Burden Down/ Fallen Down/ World Gone Wild/ Tastes Like Wine/ I Think You Know What I Mean/ Far Away/ No Need To Suffer/ In My Life/
Warren Haynes (guitar, vocals) / Allen Woody (bass, mandolin, dulcitar) & Matt Abts (drums, djembe, ashiko)