Even though he was the key catalyst of the Allman Brothers Band's post-1989 resurgence, Jerry Garcia's replacement in various incarnations of the Grateful Dead, leader of second-generation Southern-jam rock institution Gov't Mule and is one of the finest guitarists in the world, the term singer/songwriter still isn't exactly synonymous with Warren Haynes. Yet with his wonderful Americana-flavoured and song-oriented third studio solo album, Haynes reveals himself as a masterful storyteller in the best of the folk tradition. Backed by New Jersey-based Americana band Railroad Earth, Ashes And Dust comprises a backlog of songs different from both the ABB and Gov't Mule, one of which ("Is It Me Or You") is 30 years old and sets a plaintive mood immediately with rustic fiddle and banjo, as Haynes asks with his gritty voice, "Is It Me Or You, That's Killing You Baby?" "Coal Tattoo" and "Company Man," meanwhile, are poignant snapshots of rural, working class life.
As renowned for his electric guitar work in fellowship with strong Southern rock outlets like his Gov’t Mule and the Allman Brothers Band before it, as well as for his stints touring with the Grateful Dead and various other extensions of the rock world and its sub-branches that he’s had throughout a very distinguished 35 years, Warren Haynes is more of a chameleon paving his way across a myriad of branches across the musical tree than many give him credit for. He’s delved “neck-deep” into the workings of the acoustic guitar enough to call the electric’s more traditionally Americana-oriented cousin as much of a relative to his handiwork as any, with his live rendition of Radiohead’s “Lucky” flipped into an acoustic performance garnering cult attention since the first time he’d delivered it to an audience over a decade ago. It’s with that in mind that the full forward extension into the acoustic playing field that he displays in his latest studio offering, Ashes & Dust, comes as less of a surprise or reinvention than it does a pleasant dive into an already well-documented “other side” to the Mule co-founder.
Warren HaynesAshes & Dust(Concord)Rating: 4 out of 5 stars The busiest guitarist in roots rock hasn’t had much time for solo albums. In a career packed with playing the jammin’ blues of the Allman Brothers Band, the psychedelic wanderings of various Grateful Dead offshoots and the blustery prog inflected rock of Gov’t Mule, Warren Haynes has had plenty of other projects to divert his attention. But even with all of those creative outlets, he accumulated material that didn’t fit the format of the acts he was already involved with.
When Warren Haynes released the rocking soul and gospel set Man in Motion in 2011, it was the fulfillment of a dream, to write and record songs that reflected the early influence of those sounds on his musical development with an all-star band. Ashes & Dust is another side of his story. Growing up in Asheville, North Carolina, Haynes was equally exposed to bluegrass, mountain folk music, and country gospel.