Album Reviews

Gov’t Mule

Tel-Star Sessions

Artist:     Gov't Mule

Album:     Tel-Star Sessions

Label:     Evil Teen

Release Date:     08/05/2016


These are the reverberations of Gov’t Mule finding its not at all gangly legs. Already a rock power trio of remarkable precision in both composition and presentation, they cut these demos that sound nothing like demos in September of 1994. Guitarist Warren Haynes and bassist Allen Woody were in their sixth year as key members of The Allman Brothers Band. Matt Abts played drums in Allman’s guitarist Dickey Betts’ late 80’s solo group, alongside Haynes. This was supposed to be a side project, but their chemistry was uncanny. Gov’t Mule’s self-titled debut was cut a year after these sessions, still lauded as rough and ready rock ‘n’ roll of the highest caliber, echoing bands like Cream and Mountain, but with distinct personality. For the diehards, several songs that made it onto their official debut appear here in a different form, making this an essential album. Two tracks that didn’t make the final cut were indispensable. ZZ Top’s “Just Got Paid” honors another trio of badness and inspiration. Willie Dixon’s “The Same Thing” swings with a hardiness befitting Dixon’s vast legacy, and features Haynes flying off on a guitar rant like an old blues man. The Allmans began playing that one just a bit later, but here you have the coarse root as Haynes and Co. heard it. “That was fuckin’ killer,” you can hear the burly bass player Allen Woody (very much the heartbeat of this Mule) exclaim at the end of “Monkey Hill,” their one-of-a-kind display of fuzzed-out ruminations about a screwed up character. Woody was so right, in every way. A cover of Free’s “Mr. Big” stomps and roars, and suits the trio to a ‘T.’ Memphis Slim’s “Mother Earth” becomes a primal attack. When Woody died in 2000, he effectively ended Gov’t Mule’s pathway as they’d initially envisioned it. The Mule continues to stomp today of course, but not with music like this, that reverberates in your ass.


-Tom Clarke

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