(All Album Reviews by flutie479)
What am I doing reviewing Gov't Mule at a prog website review board? Well, I have my own little story to tell on this one. Few times in my life have I been robbed from taking in music, but for a time in this disc's recent past, finances were so tight and I'd gone a year without being able to afford going out and buying any music.
This little EP is the free concert I attended during this dry spell of not having the freedom to go to the record store and having no money to spend. I only went because it was free and it was like coming upon an oasis from being stranded out in the desert. I've got a CD or two of Gov't Mule and it's not been easy to figure out where they fit in just yet. To me it's almost a mishmash of sounds that don't always pull it off or blend well, that's been my impression thus far. After seeing these four musicians live my feelings are still unchanged, but somewhat improved and improving, that there's something here, and something missing.
There is a definite cohesiveness in these four being able to play collectively, but they all seem to bring something different to the table. Where I'm sensing this the most is in the keyboards and guitar. They seem to be on different planes, they're not on the same page musically, imo.
Trying to meld reggae to blues-rock to something like the Allman Brothers, or Jesse Colin Young, just doesn't cut it in my book. This EP starts off with “Hammer And Nails” which has a nice gritty sort of blues guitar thing going on with an underlying gospel like message, but then there's this reggae beat that puts it off kilter and muddies the waters, so to speak, it should be one or the other, not both. When you speak to styles you should stay in that realm, and I guess I don't equate blues power to reggae.
All these musicians are competent enough to hold their own and play well. I just feel as though they haven't found their own yet. They need to get true to some roots and play to them. Don't stay up on top looking down. When you find a groove you have to all be on the same page and play it out until you're done. Don't worry about song forms as such, as the standard solo time allotted. If you go over it and past it, so be it! Don't let the song form control you, put what you want into it first and worry about structure later.
The keyboard player is probably my biggest pet peeve here. He limits the band to this reggae thing and needs to investigate more possibilities than the shifting up and down of a reggae beat. Look into arpeggios, get more than two beats and mix it up! The guitar player has a great voice and can break out of the mold the keyboards have locked him into. My only suggestion would be to stop preaching to the choir. Parables can be used to turn on themselves. You can break free by studying what your message really is and turn it on itself. See what you come up with. It doesn't have to be obvious--think of your message as a mystery that you're trying to solve.
I shouldn't be so judgmental if not for how grateful I was to see this show. It re-instilled my hope for humanity in us all being able to look out for each other. I was very gratified if not for my lot of bad luck. When I saw this EP I was absolutely thrilled. Warren Haynes, the guitarist, threw out his pick after the solo on “That's What Love Will Make You Do”. I caught it and saved it in a special place, feeling like there was hope in this world I wasn't so happy in. Now I can visualize this whole show and remember where I was. They brought me out of my self for a little while and I really took it in in the spirit of gratitude.
These four guys could really make some things happen if they just threw out the rulebook and started playing more in the spirit of them ruling the song and not the other way around. I'd still recommend this disc, though, especially if you like Gov't Mule, which I'm still learning to do. ;)