The Bowery Presents
Gov't Mule

Gov't Mule

The Chris Robinson Brotherhood

Wed, May 17, 2017

Doors: 5:00 pm / Show: 6:00 pm

SummerStage, Central Park.

New York, NY

$48 ADV / $53 DOS

This event is all ages

Proceeds from this concert help make SummerStage free in all five NYC boroughs

RAIN OR SHINE

Gov't Mule
Gov't Mule
With 2 million paid song downloads through their site MuleTracks, seven critically acclaimed studio records already released, a handful of DVDs and live albums, plus an ever-expanding fanbase and sold-out coast-to-coast tours, Gov't Mule could easily rest on its laurels.
Yet when you're in one of the hardest working bands in rock history, pushing yourself to greater heights always supersedes cashing in on past successes.

For guitarist/lead vocalist Warren Haynes and his band, Gov't Mule, creating a new album is akin to walking a tightrope: Write new songs that please old fans, while hopefully garnering new ones. Develop that material in the studio rather than on the road, to prevent premature leaks via the internet. Celebrate the roots of American music, yet take sonic forays into the future. Honor the memory of the late Allen Woody, while simultaneously welcoming new bassist Jorgen Carlsson into the fold.

With By A Thread, Gov't Mule's first studio album in three years, recorded at Willie Nelson's Pedernales Studio in the Texas Hill Country, the band – which also features drummer Matt Abts and multi-instrumentalist Danny Louis – meets those challenges and more.

"It feels like we're moving forward and backward at the same time," Haynes notes. "Hardcore fans tend to not want us to move too far away from where we started, but the band never wants to stay in one place for very long."

"While Jorgen brings his distinctive musical personality to the table, he also uncannily evokes some of (Allen) Woody's spirit which inspired us to revisit our past."

"I don't know if we were willing to travel that road right after Allen died," says Haynes, "but this far down the line, it seems liberating and exciting."

From the opening licks of "Broke Down On The Brazos," a hard-hitting up-tempo Texas stomp that features ZZ Top's Billy Gibbons' unmistakable fretwork, through the meditative closing ballad, "World Wake Up," it's clear that Gov't Mule is intent on plowing new ground.

"There was this groove that Matt and Jorgen were playing the first day in the studio," Haynes recalls. "We taped it, and when the occasion came up for us to start writing something new, we pulled it out, and it became the catalyst for that tune. Danny and I started attacking it, Gordie Johnson [the album's producer] got involved, and during a break I went next door and began writing the lyrics."

That organic approach is evident throughout the 11-song album, which runs the rock-and-roll gamut from barroom blues to pyschedelia (check the disintegrated chords of the '60s throwback "Inside Outside Woman Blues #3") to melody-driven tunes like "Frozen Fear". The band's approach was simple: Sequester themselves at the studio, located 45 minutes from Austin, to avoid any unnecessary distractions. Ignore the clock and let loose some freeform jams. Capitalize on the chemistry that was already developing between Carlsson and Abts. Write new material, as Haynes describes, "from the ground up."

"Writing in the studio was a lot of pressure, but it worked out great. For whatever reason, the time seemed right. The door was kicked open, and now we're moving full steam ahead."

Once that metaphorical door was unlocked, Gov't Mule proved unstoppable in the studio.

"Warren had some sketches of songs, and some fully finished songs, but what made this session special was that the band co-wrote four songs on the spot," Abts says. "What we were thinking 14 years ago, when the band started, doesn't necessarily apply to 2009. We've gone through some changes, but that's a good thing, like any relationship that changes over time. Jorgen has given us such a shot in the arm. I'm really excited about the new record – it's the best thing we've ever done."

The experience, says the Swedish-born Carlsson, who joined Gov't Mule last January, was better than anyone could've imagined.

"I play in a lot of high-pressure studio sessions in L.A.," he says, "but this felt so natural. It was fun. I played as good as I could, and I can't wait to see what happens next."

Louis agrees.

"As long as I've been playing music, it still feels like a little miracle when the creative spirit kicks in," he says. "'Steppin' Lightly' came together with all four of us huddled around in a circle. I came out from behind the keyboards and played guitar, so physically, we were closer than we were before. 'Any Open Window' was the same thing – for the first time, not only was Jorgen involved on the ground floor of the tune, but we broke it down to a two-guitar band."

As Gov't Mule picks up speed, however, the band has never lost sight of its roots.

Exhibit A: "Railroad Boy," a 100-year old folk song Haynes learned as a teenager in Asheville, N.C. and transformed into a rollicking, organ- and guitar-driven romp.

"The tradition, melody and story of that tune are so strong, that somehow, it's never left my brain," explains Haynes, also a member of the Dead and the Allman Brothers Band, and one of Rolling Stones' Top 25 Greatest Guitarists of All Time.

"I thought, why don't we work up a rock-and-roll arrangement, and see what happens. It came together really quickly – when that happens, it's always a good sign. Everybody's input was spot-on. The timelessness of that song was inherent; what we add is the freshness. Gov't Mule plays a modern day version of that music – not a tribute, but a continuation."

On the next track, "Monday Mourning Meltdown," Gov't Mule downshifts into a moody, contemporary rock ballad.

"It's a personal statement for me," Haynes avows. "Sonically, it's different from anything we've ever done. We experimented with a lot of different approaches, and in some ways, this song really showcases the growth of the band and represents a new direction for us."

Now that the finishing touches have been placed on By A Thread, the musicians of Gov't Mule anxiously await its late summer release.

"These songs didn't exist until we got to Pedernales," Abts says. "No one's heard 'em yet, which is kind of frustrating."
The Chris Robinson Brotherhood
The Chris Robinson Brotherhood
When the Chris Robinson Brotherhood headed into the studio to begin recording their new album, Anyway You Love, We Know How You Feel, no one knew just what to expect. These would be the band's first recordings with new drummer Tony Leone (Ollabelle, Levon Helm), their first since the departure of founding bassist Mark "Muddy" Dutton, and their first time producing themselves. But as anybody who's been following the CRB can attest, this is a band that thrives on the unexpected.

If you need proof, just go back to 2012, when they first emerged on the national stage by releasing not one, but two acclaimed full-length albums within a few months of each other. Critics hailed their sprawling debut, Big Moon Ritual, as a revelation, with Uncut calling it a "tenderly-executed piece of work…[that's] both earthy and transcendent," while The Independent raved that Robinson had "finally found the ideal vehicle to indulge his taste for 'Cosmic California Music.'" The reviews were similarly ecstatic for its immediate follow-up, The Magic Door, which was praised by Relix as "classic rock in the finest sense." The band's relentless tour schedule brought their shimmering acid-Americana around the world for a staggering 118-date tour, firmly establishing the CRB as the new standard-bearers of the psychedelic roots torch.

In 2014, they returned to the studio for Phosphorescent Harvest, a masterful collection that showcased the blossoming songwriting partnership between Robinson and CRB lead guitarist Neal Casal. Rolling Stone raved that the album was "electrifying…boast[ing] a vintage rock vibe that’s at once quirky, trippy, soulful and downright magnetic," and Guitar World called it "a treasure trove of soul that advances the band's bluesy, kaleidoscopic sound."

On each of those albums, the songs and arrangements had been locked in prior to the sessions, but heading back into the studio for Anyway You Love…, Robinson purposely left as much open-ended as possible, embracing the lineup changes and leaning into the virtuosic improvisational chemistry that's always made their live shows such enthralling spectacles.

"Instead of seeing these things as challenges, we started to see them as something exciting," explains Robinson. "It was an opportunity to see where our expression could take us. Some people get really uptight when they're making records, but for us, the looser it gets the better. It's all about taking our intuition and following it to where our ideas can really manifest themselves. This turned out to be the most spontaneous record I've ever been a part of."

Not coincidentally, Robinson also cites it as perhaps the best recording experience of his life. The band relocated to northern California for the sessions, recording on the side of a mountain overlooking the foggy Pacific Ocean and channeling the natural majesty and melancholic weather of their surroundings into the album's eight, epic, immersive tracks.

The album kicks off with “Narcissus Soaking Wet," a psychedelic toe-tapper that marks Robinson's first co-write with keyboardist Adam MacDougall and touches on everything from Dylan and Parliament Funkadelic to psych rock and Chicago rhythm & blues.

"For me, its the centerpiece of the record," says Robinson. "It's got all our CRB things we love, especially the groove, and it's the first time I ever played harmonica on one of our songs. The lyrics are about control and egotism and false idolatry, about what happens when you're a musician who puts yourself above the natural flow of harmony and music. It becomes the same mythic mistake that all the tragic heroes made."

Ego takes a backseat to community in the CRB, where collaboration carries the day. Rather than coming into the studio with a collection of finished songs for this album as he had in the past, Robinson would present the group with sketches—a verse and melody here, a chorus and chord progression there—and let the band follow its collective muse to bring the music to life, a process he likens to putting an engine into the chassis of an old race car. Robinson had been sitting on "Leave My Guitar Alone," for instance, for nearly 15 years, but only once he presented it to the rest of the band did it roar to life in a way that had eluded him for more than a decade.

"It's a group effort," says Robinson. "All it takes is one good, small idea, and then if everyone's focused and in the moment, a few hours later, you can have something that you realize you'll be playing for as long as you're making music. I think when everyone's aware that that’s the sort of magic that we're looking for, then it happens naturally. More than any other session that I've ever been a part of, that's how all of these songs were done."

"Ain't It Hard But Fair" calls to mind the soulful Americana of The Band, while "Oak Apple Day" is a mediation on life in the CRB, and "Forever As The Moon" came together in a stream of consciousness between Casal and Robinson.

"The album's title comes from that song, and it was the first thing that came to my mind while we were playing it," remembers Robinson. "I didn't even have a pen and paper out. We'd just finished a hectic year on the road, and I was looking around at the world and all the anxiety and the chaos. The phrase felt like this universal statement, to me, that it doesn't matter who or how or where or why, no matter what you 're going through, as long as you have love, everyone can relate to that."

Some of Robinson's finest writing to date arrives in the album's final minutes, with the soulful, southern, gospel-tinged closer "California Hymn," which finds him singing "Glory glory hallelujah / It's time to spread the news / Though my good words may sound profane to some."

"That whole chorus is about being a part of our community, our little CRB culture," explains Robinson. "These are our services when we play our music. And when it's at its best, we feel like the music makes a connection with people that's on a level that has nothing to do with commerce or nostalgia. There's some other gravity that keeps us all together in those moments, and I think this song is representative of that kind of magic spell."

Indeed, the whole album is something of a magic spell, and now that it's been cast, it's time for services to resume in the psychedelic church of the CRB. That means they'll be hitting your local rock and roll temple in their ongoing mission to make the holy profane and the profane holy, so pour a little wine, light up an offering, and get ready for the unexpected. Amen.
Venue Information:
SummerStage, Central Park.
5th Ave at 69th Street
New York, NY, 10065