High & Mighty
First Appeared in The Music Box, August 2006, Volume 13, #8
Written by John Metzger
If Déjà Voodoo sent a message that Gov’t Mule wasn’t about to fall apart after the death of founding bass player Allen Woody, then High & Mighty boldly declares that it is still a force with which to be reckoned. Throughout the set, guitarist Warren Haynes, drummer Matt Abts, keyboard player Danny Louis, and Woody’s replacement Andy Hess continue to inject a jam band aesthetic into their ’70s hard rock and heavy metal influences, but truth be told, Gov’t Mule hasn’t sounded this energized and confident since its self-titled debut. There’s an unrelenting fury to the manner in which Abts and Hess provide the songs with their dense, unstoppable undercurrents, and Louis adds splashes of color whenever they are most needed. Naturally, Haynes uses his quicksilver guitar accompaniments to slice through the sonic sludge, but instead of coming across like a dated showcase for his pyrotechnic displays, the ensemble finally feels as if it is performing like a fully cohesive unit.
As always, Gov’t Mule is utterly unapologetic in its appropriations from the past, and right from the start, it tosses bits of Deep Purple, Mountain, and Foreigner into the crisp and crunchy, AC/DC-derived blues of Mr. High & Mighty. That the outing comes at a time when the sounds of New Wave once again are popular only enhances the feeling that the endeavor is, in effect, the group’s Back in Black. Elsewhere, the ensemble dabbles in political discourse via the buzzing mechanical bite of Like Flies and the loose, elastic, reggae vibrations of Unring the Bell; it thrashes Streamline Woman with all the tenacity of Led Zeppelin; and it appropriately draws from the Allman Brothers Band for Brand New Angel, though it funnels the tune through a heavier chugging groove that is reminiscent of The Edgar Winter Group. In fact, the only place in which High & Mighty falters is during its obligatory power ballads (So Weak, So Strong; Nothing Again).
After losing a key member, its rare that a band is given a second chance. Yet, Gov’t Mule has succeeded in doing the impossible by becoming as good, if not better, than its original incarnation. For all the star-powered extravaganzas that were formulated after Allen Woody’s death, Gov’t Mule’s resurgence on High & Mighty serves as the finest tribute to him that Haynes and Abts could ever hope to concoct. ½
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2006 The Music Box