Warren Haynes Presents
The Benefit Concert, Volume One
First Appeared in The Music Box, June 2007, Volume 14, #6
Written by John Metzger
Tue June 5, 2007, 06:00 AM CDT
The main attraction to benefit concerts as well as to festivals doesn’t stem necessarily from the wide-ranging talent that is assembled. Rather, it’s the potential for seeing once-in-a-lifetime, in-the-moment collaborations among the artists involved. More often than not, these events have a tendency to live and die based upon the success of these spontaneous interactions. In that sense, the 11th annual Christmas Jam — which was held at the Thomas Wolfe Auditorium in Asheville, North Carolina on December 22, 1999 — certainly was one of the stronger and livelier happenings.
Not only did the show boast five main acts — Edwin McCain, The Derek Trucks Band, Susan Tedeschi, Cry of Love, and Gov’t Mule — that were highly complementary of each other, but it also featured an array of special guests — including Col. Bruce Hampton, Jimmy Herring, Johnny Neel, Larry McCray, and the legendary Little Milton — all of whom were equally well suited to the blues-based but jam-friendly line-up. A comparison between Warren Haynes Presents: The Benefit Concert, Volume One and its successor from the subsequent year demonstrates quite clearly, however, that there also is an unseen, unspoken x-factor that can make all the difference in the world.
Granted, at two discs and a two-hour, 15-minute running time, Warren Haynes Presents: The Benefit Concert, Volume One is a little bloated. Nevertheless, unlike the second installment in the series, it does a superb job of capturing the overall ambience and flow of the show. It doesn’t feel quite as choppy, and the artists are raring to go from the moment that they hit the stage. Although McCain, Tedeschi, and Cry of Love deftly established the tone for the music that surrounded them, it was during the sets by The Derek Trucks Band and Gov’t Mule that the magic truly happened. While their performances were trimmed slightly, they still were given the bulk of the space on the endeavor, and the linear presentation of the material makes it easy to hear how the chemistry between the groups and their guests developed over the course of the evening.
The Derek Trucks Band, for example, did little with Bob Marley’s Rastaman Chant and The Meters’ Chicken Strut, but once Jimmy Herring joined the group during 555 Lake, the music coalesced around the spirited competition that ensued between him and Trucks. With Col. Bruce Hampton in tow, the collective soon plunged into the loose, swinging groove of Yield Not to Temptation, and Susan Tedeschi’s powerful, gospel-soul vocals meshed perfectly with Trucks’ stinging slide guitar to elevate Turn on Your Lovelight. Similarly, the give-and-take among Herring, Trucks, and Larry McCray turned Ain’t That Loving You into a showstopping tour-de-force.
There’s nary a dull moment during Gov’t Mule’s set either. Benefitting tremendously from guitarist Warren Haynes’ contributions earlier in the evening, the band needed absolutely no time to warm up. It came out of the gate swinging as Haynes’ writhing, live-wire lead screamed through Mule, while Allen Woody’s throbbing, propulsive bass lines seemed to spur him onward. With each passing song — from the slow, simmering Fallen Down to the jazzy instrumental Devil Likes It Slow — the group gained momentum, and by the time it launched into Spoonful and When the Blues Come Knockin’, it was flying high, feeding off the free-spirited camaraderie of the assembled entourage. Because of his untimely death, this was the final Christmas Jam at which Woody performed, and hearing the telepathic communication between him and Haynes outlines precisely how much he is missed. ½
Warren Haynes Presents: The Benefit Concert, Volume One
is available from Barnes & Noble. To order, Click Here!
1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2007 The Music Box