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Author: Subject: Warren Haynes: Letting the Words Lead

Sublime Peach





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  posted on 7/24/2009 at 12:07 AM
Letting the Words Lead
Warren Haynes, Allman Brothers Guitarist, Finds Songwriting Niche in Gov't Mule

By Ernest Suarez
Special to The Washington Post
Friday, July 24, 2009

Warren Haynes pauses, carefully considers my question and nimbly details how John Steinbeck's "East of Eden" inspired him. "In 'Fallen Down,' " says the 49-year-old North Carolinian, "I explore a theme similar to Steinbeck's and draw on his phrase 'rich without pleasure and respected without friends.' My song goes,

'Rich without pleasure, respected without love

Drinking poison from a golden cup

While anger, brother of fear, creeps like a knife into your heart.' "

"Unlike most songwriters," Haynes adds, "I tend to start with the words first. Whenever I read something that's compelling, it moves me to write. I jot down phrases, images and ideas. Then I search for sounds that'll best express the content. I have notebooks of words still looking for music."

Haynes's passion for verse often surprises people who primarily know his much-feted guitar work with the Allman Brothers Band and the Grateful Dead. Rolling Stone ranks him as the 23rd greatest guitar player of all time, and Guitar Player has twice named him music's best slide guitarist.

Haynes's wife and manager, Stefani Scamardo, a D.C. area native, notes that "Warren is so ripping on the guitar [that] his lyrics and vocals sometimes get overshadowed." What does she mean? She's quick to rattle off accomplishments that include seven Grammy nominations, writing music for, among others, the Allman Brothers and the Dead. He even co-wrote the Garth Brooks megahit "Two of a Kind, Working on a Full House."

"His songs have penetrated so many sectors of music. But when you're considered one of the top guitar players in the world, other things get lost," Scamardo says.

"When I joined the Allman Brothers in 1989," Haynes observes, "it gave me an instant audience for playing guitar, and the Brothers were kind enough to let me sing and contribute songs." But as grateful as Haynes is to that band, it was the founding of Gov't Mule in 1994 with Allman Brother Allen Woody and drummer Matt Abts that was transforming to him as an artist. "Government Mule provided me with an outlet to further explore my songwriting and singing. I grew up listening to soul music -- James Brown, Otis Redding, Wilson Pickett, the Four Tops and the Temptations -- and singer-songwriters like Bob Dylan and Van Morrison, as well as to blues and rock. . . . It's all stuck with me. . . . Government Mule is my laboratory for experimentation."

The experiment has proved a good one. Eight studio recordings and almost 1,500 live performances later, the band has sold 2 million downloads from its Web site (http://www.mule.net) and more than a million CDs.

The band's newest recording, "By a Thread!," comes out in September. Recorded at Willie Nelson's Pendernales Studio in the hill country outside of Austin, the album showcases a poignant blend of Delta and Texas blues laced with jazz, psychedelic and folk influences. Haynes's far-ranging lyrical gifts and soulful singing underscore the recording's sonic variety. Drummer Abts says "By a Thread!" marks a return to "the Mule's roots, the hairpin turns and improvisational flights that characterized the band's first two CDs," "Gov't Mule" (1995) and "Dose" (1998). Abts, an Army brat who grew up in McLean, embraces the spontaneous energy the Mule brings to the studio and the stage. Several songs were largely composed in the studio. "That's the best for me," Abts says.

Gov't Mule's live performances are memorable. Haynes calls recorded versions of songs "snapshots that evolve with time and are inevitably transformed in concert." Keyboardist Danny Louis, who joined the band in 2003, says that while instrumental parts on songs are evolving collaborations, Haynes usually "ends up preferring to write lyrics and vocal melodies on his own for the most part."

"When I was in high school, my teachers pushed me toward creative writing," Haynes recalls. "I wrote poetry when I was really, really young, but I picked up a guitar at age 11, and by age 12 all the energy I put into poetry went into writing lyrics. Songwriting, singing and playing are all equally important to me."

Gov't Mule Appearing Thursday at National Harbor (150 National Plaza, Fort Washington). Show starts at 6:30 p.m. Tickets: $16.50; 866-707-2289 or http://www.tickets2buy.com The Download: For a sampling of Warren Haynes's music, check out: From "By a Thread!" (to be released in September): -- "Broke Down on the Brazos" -- "Any Open Window" -- "Monday Morning Meltdown" From "The Dose": -- "Thorazine Shuffle" From "Life Before Insanity": -- "Fallen Down" From "Deja Voodoo": -- "Slackjaw Jezebel"

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/07/23/AR200907230 1179.html

 

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Zen Peach



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  posted on 7/24/2009 at 12:21 AM
Very cool. Thanks.

The new album sounds like it could be a bit of a change again which is nice. I love the last few albums but I find them similar. You could move songs from one to another and not notice. Great songs so don't get me wrong. Just find the albums didn't have their "own" identity. If Matt is excited then that is good enough for me. I think some of his dynamics have been missing on the last few albums. Sort of mellow. Sounds very promising to me.

 

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Extreme Peach



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  posted on 7/24/2009 at 04:47 AM
that's a great read- his writing (& vocals) are definately overshadowed by the axe and well deserving of high praise.

 

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Extreme Peach



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  posted on 7/24/2009 at 04:07 PM
quote:
Very cool. Thanks.

The new album sounds like it could be a bit of a change again which is nice. I love the last few albums but I find them similar. You could move songs from one to another and not notice. Great songs so don't get me wrong. Just find the albums didn't have their "own" identity. If Matt is excited then that is good enough for me. I think some of his dynamics have been missing on the last few albums. Sort of mellow. Sounds very promising to me.


Interesting. From a studio standpoint, I always felt Life Before Insanity all the way through Deja Voodoo had a similar qualities to them and felt that High & Mighty broke that a bit...

And I'm a huge Mule fan and have been since 95 or so, so I'm not trying to complain. I like all of that stuff too.

I also seem to have really liked High & Mighty a whole lot more than most people seemed to. It being my 2nd favorite Mule album. I am very excited about the new album... and very excited about this new Haynes solo album, which I hope they don't wait too long to put out.

 

World Class Peach



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  posted on 7/24/2009 at 04:17 PM
Awesome man, Awesome band..

 

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