Young at Heart

Gov’t Mule brings the music of Neil Young to life at special Mule-O-Ween show

This has been an emotional week for Warren Haynes. The leader and founder of Gov’t Mule, Haynes has also been a member of the legendary Allman Brothers Band for over 25 years. On Oct. 28, the Classic Rock giants played their last-ever concert at New York City’s Beacon Theater.

At the beginning of 2014, Haynes and fellow Allman Brothers Band guitarist Derek Trucks jointly announced that they were leaving the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame troupe to focus on their own projects.

While Haynes is proud of his time with the Allman Brothers Band, in truth, he was playing in a group that was formed by other legendary musicians two decades before he came into the fold.

Gov’t Mule, on the other hand, has been his baby from day one. Haynes formed the versatile Rock outfit 20 years ago.

For many years now, Gov’t Mule has chosen Halloween night to present a series of unique concerts where they recreate the music of a Classic Rock band or musician.

In the past, the band has cranked up the sounds of The Rolling Stones, Pink Floyd, The Doors and other legacy acts. This Friday evening at the Taft Theatre, Gov’t Mule will apply some crunch to the music of Neil Young.

On Halloweens past, Gov’t Mule has played in cities such as Los Angeles, Philadelphia and elsewhere. This time, they chose Cincinnati.

“We’ve been trying to diversify and go to different places every year and Cincinnati seemed like a fun destination,” Haynes says. “That is a fun place to play, it’s a great crowd and that is a cool theater. I’m psyched that it worked out. We will do one set without [special guest guitarist] Jackie Greene and then he will be a part of the whole Halloween set. We look at it as a cool way to don a disguise so we don’t have to be ourselves for Halloween. We can be somebody else. But, we definitely want to cover someone’s music that we respect. … Neil Young was an obvious choice because we all love that music and we think it will make for a very festive night.”

Haynes, like many of his generation, had an older sibling who always seemed to have Neil Young records lying around the house.

Beginning with Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young’s 4 Way Street album, Young’s music has been a part of Haynes’ life since before he was a teenager.

“Neil is the epitome of someone who makes great music that is not calculated and not built on pretense or technique or fads,” Haynes says. “His music is just pure from-the-heart music. From a lyrical standpoint, he’s always been able to write lyrics that you understand, yet they are lofty at the same time. And the older we get, the more those songs mean to us.

“It’s great when an artist has that kind of connection with the listener where his guitar playing, his voice, his lyrics, his melodies, they are all coming from the same heart and the same brain. It’s all just an extension of him, which I think is what music is as a true art form.”

When I suggest to Haynes that my only problem with Jimi Hendrix is that he encouraged Young to play electric lead guitar, he laughs heartily.

“It’s crazy,” Haynes says of Young’s playing. “It’s really animated and over the top and to this day it remains that way. His love of the guitar solo has only increased through the years. I think it is wonderful because as a guitar player, we all want to have technique that we can rely on. But you hopefully learn at a very young age that there is more to it than that. Being unique, establishing your own voice, having a sense of melody, having a sense of phrasing and being able to lose yourself in the moment, all of those things make up the potential of a great guitar solo or a great guitar soloist.

“At the end of the day, technique is pretty far down the list. That’s Neil. That is a part of the overall package. We’re studying his stuff and some of his approaches to guitar solos are so unique and so uniquely him, it is very cool.”

GOV’T MULE does Neil Young at the Taft Theatre Friday. Tickets/more info:

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