Warren Haynes - Man In Motion (2011)

Warren Haynes

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On his first outing for the reenergized Stax label, Allman Brothers guitarist and Gov’t Mule founder Warren Haynes pours a bucket of sweat into expanded Southern soul and climatic guitar-fueled rock. The gutsy raw performances surrounding the Stax legacy may be a bit of a detour in the eyes of Haynes’ devout followers, but he isn’t afraid to crank up the jams with live-feeling soul or to go for the gusto on this soul expedition. To best summarize Man In Motion: it is a ten-track offering that allows soul-bred three-minute songs to stretch into eight-minute vamps loaded with chunky instrumentals and spotlight solos – like the bulk of Gov’t Mule’s content. This is a throwback album, but one that Haynes masters like a seasoned veteran.

On his first outing for the reenergized Stax label, Allman Brothers guitarist and Gov’t Mule founder Warren Haynes pours a bucket of sweat into expanded Southern soul and climatic guitar-fueled rock. The gutsy raw performances surrounding the Stax legacy may be a bit of a detour in the eyes of Haynes’ devout followers, but he isn’t afraid to crank up the jams with live-feeling soul or to go for the gusto on this soul expedition. To best summarize Man In Motion: it is a ten-track offering that allows soul-bred three-minute songs to stretch into eight-minute vamps loaded with chunky instrumentals and spotlight solos – like the bulk of Gov’t Mule’s content. This is a throwback album, but one that Haynes masters like a seasoned veteran.

Throughout Man in Motion, Haynes’s voice echoes Michael McDonald and Bob Seger, while his guitar swells in Albert King-esque tizzies. He’s also surrounded by good company: drummer Raymond Weber pounds out the funky beats; Ian McLagan handles the keys and Meters’ member George Porter, Jr. lays down the righteous bass lines.

The groove-laden album plays like a MG’s basement jam session. The album’s title cut, decked out with riveting Johnnie Taylor soul and occasional horn punches, opens up the disc and finds Haynes exploring the lifestyles of a badass living on the edge (“His life has been a race/Love of the game/Thrill of the chase/It’s only eight seconds but you live for the ride”). And, throughout the track, Haynes does just that, as he shifts the juke joint soul into an unapologetic chugging display of loose, borderless rock, dipped in the waters of the blues – like an Isaac Hayes expanded track. “Sick of My Shadow” is a mutation of James Brown and Creedence Clearwater Revival, playing up Haynes’ exploitation of the weary (“Sick of myself/Everything I do/Sick of my shadow/Since I lost you”). “Take a Bullet” rocks like a replica of Wilson Pickett’s “The Midnight Hour” while “On a Real Lonely Night” keeps the Stax fires burning as the Grooveline Horns deliver an awe-striking harmonic performance on the closing minutes of the jam session.

Luckily the album plays with other tempos, mood shifts and mellower moments. “River’s Gonna Rise” is gospel-fueled—the Staples Singers kind—and serenaded with passionate background vocals and an Al Green organ. It smells like a mix of Steely Dan’s “Do It Again” and Mel & Tim’s “Starting All Over Again.” But, the funk gets louder and Haynes resilience to crank up the heat is appropriately tagged to the climax. The seven-minute “Your Wildest Dreams,” tweaked with Ron Holloway’s tenor sax solo, swivels like a conventional Otis Redding smooth-to-fiery ballad. While much of the tracks parade a bit longer than expected, he utilizes careful build-ups, wisely working them into the equation at the most opportune time. The closing offering, “Save Me,” finds Haynes belting like a preacher over sanctified organ and piano as he pleads for some higher power to “shelter me from the pouring rain.”

Haynes writes much of the album on his own, but plays with a deep soul cover of William Bell and Booker T. Jones’s “Everyday Will Be Like a Holiday.”

It’s definitely hard to pick standouts on Man in Motion, especially when Haynes and Co. lay down their souls on this sweaty canvas. Things could be tidied up in places. The edges are a bit aggressive for today’s radio playlists and the jam sessions could’ve been slightly sparred for the live show, but Haynes – a man known for cutting eight-minute epics with Gov’t Mule – isn’t apologetic about his need to jam. He’s a musician that has rocked with the Grateful Dead, swayed with Bob Dylan, cut his teeth with the Allmans. An admirer of soul music and the blues, Warren Haynes is a “man in motion” in every sense of the term, and his first solo album since 1993 proves he’s definitely working in his element. Highly recommended.

By J Matthew Cobb

 
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