“What do you expect I’m gonna do?”, Warren Haynes bellows on the title track of his new album, Man in Motion. For longtime fans of the 51-year-old, it’s not really that difficult to figure out the answer to that question. After all, for a guitarist who goes on extensive tours with the Allman Brothers and the Dead (plus sits in with pretty much every other major act in the jamband scene), it’s a pretty legitimate guess that the guy is going to wail solos throughout half the album. Rest assured, Gov’t Mule fans, you will not be disappointed.
Although this LP channels his more soulful side, prominently displaying a horns section that gets the pleasure of riding out those jams with him, the move gives Haynes the opportunity to jam differently than his usual routine. His control and tone are much more focused than on his other work, because he can’t override the saxophone that accompanies him. For a guy who is ranked by Rolling Stone magazine as the “23rd Greatest Guitarist of All-Time”, it would seem an easy feat, but for a guy who’s also commonly brought on stage with the intention of being the center of attention, this is probably much tougher territory.
It works out great, though, because it sets up a terrific sound for his live show, to which a Warren Haynes album is always essentially the precursor. A taste of that experience is heard on Man in Motion, since Haynes had everyone play together in the same room during the recording process. The intention was to capture the “emotion, passion and spontaneity” of a live show, Haynes has said, which only lends more credibility to his talent. The solos are so tightly orchestrated that one would imagine it took 50 takes to get everything correct, yet with Haynes, there is the honest possibility it only took one or two.
On tracks such as “Hattiesburg Hustle” and “Take a Bullet”, listeners hardly have to imagine where the songs would lead to in concert. His quintessential guitar squealing empowers the songs like any other Haynes project. However, on “Your Wildest Dreams” and “On a Real Lonely Night,” the saxophonist takes over the lead, busting out the solos as the tracks slowly fade to a close. This might turn off some fans and get them to skip to another song in order to get their Haynes fix, but there’s a good chance in concert that these songs are the ones that will shine brightest. After all the projects with which Haynes has been involved, rarely has he been accompanied by a horn section. This fusion may lend a new dynamic to the live experience. Haynes and Ron Holloway (sax) can either trade off solos or meld the two sounds together to build a jazz climax that usually only Haynes himself is left to muster.
As the title states, Man In Motion showcases a veteran songwriter and legendary guitarist moving in new directions and expanding his already notable career. Don’t worry, though, Deadheads and Mule fanatics. You’ll still get your fill of badass guitar work.
// Notes from the Road
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