Artist: Warren Haynes featuring Railroad Earth
Album: Ashes & Dust
Label: Concord records
Release Date: 07/25/2015
Grazed steel, polished wood resonating charismatically, and Ashes & Dust as the album is called, completely suffuse the music Warren Haynes made with Railroad Earth. The Gov’t Mule leader’s sixth solo collection finds him playing in progressive bluegrass and folk/rock realms with one of the most versatile bands of that ilk. Right at home with nearly anything stylistically, Haynes actually delved into this kind of sound 15 years ago on “Lay of the Sunflower” from Gov’t Mule’s wide-ranging Deep End sessions. In fact, Haynes wrote that song with the Grateful Dead’s Phil Lesh, the same partnership that yielded this album’s “Spots of Time,” initially intended for The Allman Brothers Band.
Here, with Railroad Earth and guest Brothers Oteil Burbridge on bass and Marc Quinones on percussion, the song mesmerizes in nearly identical arrangement, but more luxuriously. Haynes very evidently writes with a rare ability. Lyrically downcast but musically uplifting, “Is it Me or You” sketches out a tug of war between tight friends. And like no one, he addresses the simple life, hard work, and corporate greed in the dashing “Company Man.” But Haynes has always known a great song when he hears one too, and relishes shining a light on other deserving artists, known and unknown. “Glory Road,” a grand bounty hunter’s tale from the pen of Nashville’s Ray Sisk, and the irresistible parlor room jangle and powerful imagery of “Stranded in Self Pity” by Appalachian folkie Larry Rhodes, are two of the finer examples of that.
Railroad Earth’s handmade flair on a variety of stringed instruments—and drums—astonishes throughout. With Grace Potter in fabulous duet with Haynes and his great guitar, they become an octet capable of aggressively washing Stevie Nicks’ Fleetwood Mac gem “Gold Dust Woman” to brand new, without losing one iota of its original charm.