Warren Haynes’ long-anticipated solo album, Man In Motion (Concord Records), is a timeless collection of songs that crackle with modern vitality yet draw on his deepest roots as an artist.
The disc pumps fresh blood into the heart of soul and blues, stoked by Haynes’s Herculean prowess as both a powerhouse singer and guitarist — a reputation he’s earned as a member of three of the greatest live groups in rock history: The Allman Brothers Band, The Dead and his own Gov’t Mule.
In a sense, the vocal-driven Man In Motion is an album he’s been aching to make since he first dreamed of becoming a musician.
“Before I started playing guitar, I wanted to be a singer, right from the age of five or six,” the rock ‘n’ roll legend regales. “And what I wanted to sing was soul music. My brothers and I had just a handful of albums. First they were the ‘Best of’ collections by Sam & Dave, Wilson Pickett, James Brown, the Temptations, Aretha Franklin…and eventually albums by the three Kings of the blues, Freddie King, B.B. King and Albert King. In fact, it was hearing B.B. and Freddie that made me realize you could be a great singer and a great guitar player. So I decided to model myself after them.”
For Man In Motion, Haynes draws on his dynamic gravel-and-honey voice and stunning six-string syntax to create melodies that frame the past with the present, fusing enduring themes of love, desire and loss with bristling undeniably contemporary energy.
Tunes like Haynes’ uplifting Albert King influenced string-bender “The River’s Gonna Rise” — an anthem of hope for these tumultuous times — and the poignant narrative “A Friend To You” ring with the same straight-talking authenticity as William Bell’s Stax-label jewel “Every Day is a Holiday,” the disc’s sole cover.
“In soul and blues, the vocal is really the centerpiece,” Haynes explains. “And it’s not about irony or smoke-and-mirrors. It’s about telling real stories about everyday people in an honest way. Honesty in music trumps everything else.”
Despite Man In Motion’s sharp focus on his singing, there’s no shortage of numbers like “Sick of My Shadow,” which straddles the terrain of Haynes’ guitar universe, blending rock, soul, R&B and jazz in its introspective mix.
Fans of Haynes’ growling, distinctive signature six-string approach in Gov’t Mule and the Allman Brothers will notice a subtler — if no less adventurous — palette of guitar tones on Man in Motion.