Photo credit: Anna Webber
Gov’t Mule’s self-titled debut record recently passed the twenty year mark. Warren Haynes, Allen Woody and Matt Abts had started making music together in 1994, as a side project, when the Allman Brothers were on break. Their 12 track debut had a very blues-based, southern rock vibe to it, containing many of the classic sounds Mule fans have grown to love over the past two decades. What happened before finding that sound is now coming to light with the release of a new archival album entitled The Tel-Star Sessions, the band’s very first, and never-before-released, demos that were made in 1994.
Alternative Nation is proud to premiere the lead track of that collection, “Blind Man In The Dark” off the new archival album The Tel-Star Sessions, which will be available on August 5, 2016 via Evil Teen Records.
Although later released on the band’s second LP Dose, this original version of the song features grittier, grunge-tinged vocals, and a “dirty” bass guitar style, showcasing the rawness of Mule’s early days and the alt-rock influences that were just beginning to emerge in the early 90s. These newly mixed and mastered demos were recorded in June 1994 at Tel-Star Studios in Bradenton, Florida and feature the original line-up – Warren Haynes, Allen Woody and Matt Abts. Fans of the band and straight-ahead rock will welcome the chance to hear their early improvisational interplay as a power trio, an impressive skill that has since become a main component of Gov’t Mule’s albums and live shows.
Explaining “Blind Man In The Dark,” Waren Hayes says, “This version represents the song before we changed the key and the drum pattern along with some other things. We also recorded this song for our first LP but didn’t use it. We wound up re-recording (a third time) for our 2nd LP Dose. It was cool to hear where it started as opposed to where it ended up.”
Though still containing the signature touch of a Mule song, “Blind Man In The Dark” contains catchy melodies, a groovy guitar solo and a big chorus, reflective of early 90’s rock. This makes an old song new again as it’s a varied alternative rock sound that not only would’ve fit perfectly into the mid-90’s scene, but also offers a fresh sound today.
“Blind Man In The Dark” is available tomorrow as a digital single and instant grat track with the Mule.net pre-order bundle and the album pre-order available on iTunes, Apple Music and Amazon. What was originally intended to be the band’s debut album, but then subsequently shelved until now, these 10 songs will be available digitally and as a single CD, as well as 180-gram double-vinyl set including a limited edition version with different artwork and white vinyl.
Recorded during the infancy of Gov’t Mule, the demos heard on The Tel-Star Sessions are from a time when Mule was an adventurous side project, formed during a year when Warren Haynes and Allen Woody had some down time from their work with the Allman Brothers Band. Becoming one of the most enduring, respected and active bands in the world was the furthest thing from the band’s imagination; the plan was to record a low-budget album and play a few shows. It’s now clear that they had stumbled upon something special, but at that point Mule was an experimental rock trio: Haynes, Woody and drummer Matt Abts, who Haynes brought in after playing with him in the Dickey Betts Band. Fans will love the chance to hear their early improvisational interplay, an impressive skill that has since become a mainstay of Gov’t Mule’s albums and live shows.
Collaborating with Allman Brothers sound engineer Bud Snyder, and taking legendary producer Tom Dowd’s advice to record all instruments simultaneously live in a room, Gov’t Mule holed up in the Tampa-area studio. They recorded a mix of early originals such as “Blind Man In The Dark,” “Monkey Hill,” and “Left Coast Groovies” along with covers by ZZ Top (“Just Got Paid”), Free (“Mr. Big”), and Willie Dixon (“The Same Thing”). Says Warren, “Along with our discussions about the ‘power trio’ being missing from the current musical landscape were the discussions of how the sound of the bass guitar had gotten progressively ‘cleaner’ since the ’80s (or late ’70s), and how that affected the overall feeling of the music.” Their influences leaned heavily on the likes of Cream, Jimi Hendrix Experience and ZZ Top, but Mule’s search to bring back a familiar sound is mingled with grunge and alt-rock influences that had just emerged in the early-mid ‘90s. Little did they know that the magic created during these sessions would spark such a prolific musical journey.
The band recorded three increasingly ambitious studio albums and performed countless shows before Woody died in August, 2000. After briefly pausing to ponder their next move, Haynes and Abts began recording The Deep End, two CDs featuring guest bassists, ranging from the Who’s John Entwistle to the Grateful Dead’s Phil Lesh.
“Everything we’ve done collectively has led up to where we are now,” says Haynes. “But those Deep End sessions, and the experience of playing with so many bassists and adapting to different sounds and approaches had a profound effect on Gov’t Mule and what we’ve done since.”
Danny Louis, a longtime collaborator, became a full-time member of Gov’t Mule in 2001, and the group has been a four-piece ever since. Bassist Jorgen Carlsson has been with the group since 2008, solidifying the lineup.
“I think a lot of the music we’re doing now is very similar to the music we were making in the earliest years with the obvious exception that we are no longer a trio,” says Haynes. “In some ways we’ve come full circle and in other ways it only makes sense if you step back and connect the dots. And that seems right to me. You want to keep growing and you never want to be static, or done changing.”
Haynes’ unparalleled ability to bring together different musicians into a cohesive whole or to pull off epic musical happenings is one of the many reasons why Haynes stands apart from the many great front men and guitarists who have graced the musical landscape. Combined with his guitar and vocal mastery, these skills have made him an in-demand presence and indispensable musical ally for many.
Gov’t Mule has showcased its virtuosity, intelligence and breadth for more than two decades, which have encompassed 15 studio and live albums, millions of album and track sales and thousands of performances. The band has become a human encyclopedia of timeless American music while adding to that canon with their signature sound.
The release of The Tel-Star Sessions will ignite a busy summer for Mule, who will first embark on the Smokin’ Mule 2016 Tour with special guest Blackberry Smoke, which will include a show at Colorado’s famed Red Rocks Amphitheater on August 25th. Then in September, the band will set out on a highly anticipated amphitheater tour with ZZ Top from September 9th to 20th. Full tour routing below.
Gov’t Mule 2016 Tour dates:
* with special guest Blackberry Smoke
^ with ZZ Top
August 11 Portland, ME @ Maine State Pier*
August 12 Asbury Park, NJ @ Stone Pony Summerstage*
August 13 Boston, MA @ Blue Hills Bank Pavilion*
August 14 Scranton, PA @ Peach Music Festival
August 16 Utica, NY @ Saranac Brewery*
August 17 Philadelphia, PA @ River Stage at Penn’s Landing*
August 18 Pittsburgh, PA @ Stage AE Outdoors*
August 19 Rochester Hills, MI @ Meadow Brook Amphitheatre*
August 20 Huber Heights, OH @ Music Center at the Heights*
August 22 Peoria, IL @ CEFCU Center Stage*
August 23 Des Moines, IA @ Simon Estes Amphitheater*
August 25 Morrison, CO @ Red Rocks Amphitheater (with moe. and Blackberry Smoke)
August 27 San Diego, CA @ Humphrey’s*
August 28 Paso Robles, CA @ Vina Robles*
August 30 Saratoga, CA @ The Mountain Winery*
August 31 Ronhert Park, CA @ Sonoma Mountain Village*
September 1 Eugene, OR @ Cuthbert Amphitheater*
September 3 Missoula, MT @ Big Sky Brewery*
September 4 Jackson, WY @ Fireman’s Ball*
September 9 Wantagh, NY @ Jones Beach^
September 10 Concord, NH @ Capitol Center
September 11 Bethlehem, PA @ Sands Bethlehem Event Center^
September 13 Baltimore, MD @ Pier Six Pavilion^
September 14 Cary, NC @ Koka Booth Amphitheater at Regency Park^
September 15 Fredericksburg, VA @ Celebrate Virginia After Hours^
September 17 Rosemont, IL @ Rosemont Theatre^
September 18 Maryland Heights, MO @ Hollywood Casino Amphitheater^
September 20 Kansas City, MO @ Starlight Theatre*
September 23 Atlanta, GA @ Tabernacle
September 24 St. Petersburg, FL @ Jannus Landing
September 25 Miami, FL @ Fillmore
September 27 Birmingham, AL @ Avondale Brewing Co.
September 29 Glen Allen, VA @ Innsbrook After Hours*
September 30 Cherokee, NC @ Harrah’s Cherokee Event Center*
October 1 Charlotte, NC @ CMCU Amphitheatre*
feature photo by Anna Webber
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