Gov’t Mule lets its soul shine on Druid City

Tristan Waldrop, Contributing Writer

Seasoned jam-band Gov’t Mule brought the house down at Druid City Music Hall on Thursday, Sept. 22. Tuscaloosa was the band’s fifth stop on its September tour as they warmed up to rock on across the South for the entirety of next month. 

With Jorgen Carlsson on bass, Matt Abts on drums, Danny Louis on keyboards, and Warren Haynes, the former member of the legendary rock ‘n’ roll band Allman Brothers, on the guitar, the band delivered a stellar performance for the mass of their tie-dye-clad fans. 

Gov’t Mule’s autumn tour comes fresh off the heels of a symbolically significant year for the band, with the release of their first ever blues album, “Heavy Load Blues,” creeping up on its first anniversary. For decades, the band sat at the crossroads of southern rock and jam band music, but last year’s record represents a homage to the genre which made it all possible: blues.

“Any man who considers themselves a rock and roll fan is also a blues fan. As I say, it’s a short trip to visit that world. It’s good for a lot of younger music lovers to go backward and see where a lot of the music that they listen to came from,” Haynes said. “So when you go back and study the source, it connects the dots a lot for you. The fact that we have an actual blues album out right now is relevant to what we’re doing on tour.”

Despite incorporating a bluesier element into the band’s setlist, the fans still enjoyed a show which displayed the core of the band’s sound, perfected by years of honing a craft they have used to etch out a towering legacy into the ethos of southern rock.

“We still approach every show differently,” Haynes said. “Every night is different. We may decide one show to go back and play along with stuff from our early records. You just never know.”

The show’s spontaneity was a characteristic feature of the band’s performance, not an irregular occurrence. In this sense, the crowd received precisely what they were searching for, a setlist that seamlessly transitioned from one song to the next with pleasant surprises in between. Such surprises included a stunning guitar riff from the Allman Brothers’, “Les Brers In A Minor,” a powerful track dedicated to the 1971 passing of Duane Allman, and even a cover of The Marshall Tucker Band’s “Can’t You See.” 

As the fans cheered and broke out into a wave of free-form dance, the symbiotic quality of the show’s magic became apparent. The band and its admirers bounced off one another in a harmonious, uninterrupted flow of jam-band-inspired ecstasy. 

Yet this was clearly not a new experience for much of the crowd; the totality of tie-dye shirts, long beards and sociability between strangers pointed toward the entrenchment of a subculture that has endured for decades. In this way, the sounds of the concert, from the explosion of sound on stage to the constant cheering from onlookers, came together in reverberating the echoes of rock ’n’ roll from past generations. 

For Gov’t Mule, it seemed like the road might truly go on forever. For two hours, the band used every skill in their toolset to provide an unforgettable experience. Last Thursday was an outstanding example of a hardened band playing at its best. 

The future remains bright for Gov’t Mule, as the band continues touring into next year, with a new album release on the horizon. 

“We have another record that we recorded at the same time we recorded ‘Heavy Load Blues.’ That is going to probably come out in April. So we’re going to keep touring. As we release the next record, we’ll keep going.” Haynes said. “We’re making up for lost time. We lost a lot of time during the pandemic, and everybody seems to be back. Playing live again. It feels good. So let’s keep it going.”