GOV'T MULE: HIGH AND MIGHTY

By Kerry Heffernan

Gov't Mule is a side project experiment that seems to have gone terribly right. Although some loyal music followers just can't seem to get on board with them, the band has managed to build a legion of fans. Jambands.com actually listed the band as a choice to the poll question, "Which of these bands do you really enjoy even though your friends don't quite get it (and frankly give you a bit of grief for your musical taste)?" Gov't Mule's popularity was developed partially from intensely grueling touring schedules, but mostly because of the reputation that began to swirl about their talent; these guys can play. Constantly touted as a "southern rock band," it would be easy to typecast Gov't Mule as only that. However, with one listen to the band's latest studio effort, High and Mighty, it becomes blindingly obvious that southern rocking is just the beginning.

True to the band's roots, the entire album does reek of southern rock flair - think Lynyrd Skynyrd, The Allman Brothers, and tiny fragments of The Doobie Brothers thrown in for good measure. But there's so much more going on here than straight-up, good ole' boy rockin'. Gov't Mule pulls out all of the stops with this record and borrows some ingeniously utilized cues from many different musical styles.

In the album's powerful title track, "High and Mighty," the quartet takes a lesson from the glam-rock metal bands of the '80s. The song begins with the genre's quintessential hammering guitar riff and definitive drum line. But Mule doesn't diverge too far from their personal zone as the song, embedded with blues feels, moves to more of a 'sleaze metal' style rather than the Van Halen-esque, hair music of the decade. The pattern then falls into an all-out raucous, dissonance-filled momentum that begins to tease along the lines of a Black Sabbath tune. But just as you think that the band has lost all direction, the cheerful sound of the organ comes creeping in from the background, lightening the mood and pulling the song back to comfortably familiar Gov't Mule territory. Perhaps the biggest diversion from the southern jamming that is Gov't Mule comes from the song "Unring the Bell." The rhythm guitar plays the choppy notes on the backbeat that are characteristically prevalent in almost every reggae song known to man. Socially conscious lyrics flow through the chords - another defining characteristic of roots reggae - and the authoritative drum beat only adds to the nostalgic island feel of the tune. A breakdown occurs in the melody and is replaced by a phenomenal staccato keys solo, further complementing the Rasta vibe. The style is developed so completely that you almost forget that this is a rock album. A final example of the true eclectic musicianship of this band comes from the last song of the collection, "Endless Parade." The blues call-and-response pattern is alive and well here. With harmonic progressions and a strong, walking bass line, the groove of the blues takes shape. A constant light tap on the high-hat far in the distance creates a slightly jazzy ambience, allowing the song to come around full circle.

But "full circle" doesn't just describe one song; it is what this entire album is really all about. This band has the ability to pull influences from across the gamut, yet still remain true to their roots. No matter what form is being utilized, the undeniable southern charm drenches each and every song. The band's ability to create beautiful, ballad-worthy lyrics in songs like "So Weak, So Strong" and "Child of the Earth" proves that they are more than a band who can blow the roof off the building with massive guitar solos and unrestrained improvisations. Their music has depth and intricacies that are only getting stronger with each concert played. This album is Gov't Mule at their best - finally sitting high and mighty.

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[Published on: 8/19/06]

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Comments

Here Comes The Flood Sat 8/19/2006 01:48PM
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Here Comes The Flood

Well, I for one do like the Mule. I was thrilled when they finally crossed the pond to play in Europe. Having amassed a huge collection ofr live shows the real thing sounded even better than the best of FOB's could manage. I keep an eye for on my mailbox for my copy of this album.

hippiehick starstarstarstarstar Sat 8/19/2006 05:06PM
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What a great on the money article Kerry!
Whilst many think that some don't get them, if you had seen the thousands mouths singing along to all their songs at Wannee fest. you would think that the ones that don't get it are becoming a minority. I support live original music and no one does it better than Warren.

Rod365 starstarstarstarstar Sat 8/19/2006 07:42PM
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Mr. High and Mighty tears it up! Warren rules and the band is ultra talented. You all have been slow to catch on, which has been great for me, I've got to see them up close with no hassels. See you Tuesday in Holmdel.

JimmyDean starstarstarstarstar Sun 8/20/2006 10:27AM
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JimmyDean

cant wait to peep this album. Love the mule.

The Glick Sun 8/20/2006 02:31PM
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The Glick

I LOVE THE MULE!

Rugger Blues starstarstar Mon 8/21/2006 01:46PM
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Rugger Blues

Comparing Govt Mule to Lynyrd Skynyrd and the Doobie Brothers is not necessarily a compliment. While they both have their place and were good bands in their mid-70s heyday, Govt Mule sit far above them in their collective talent, depth of their music and especially their live shows. The ABB comparison is obvious. How about a comparison more like Cream, Grand Funk and Mountain perhaps?

All Loving Liberal White Guy Mon 8/21/2006 03:17PM
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All Loving Liberal White Guy

love the mule, but like moe, they're one of those bands whose studio albums just doesn't cut the mustard.

Vega Productions starstarstarstarstar Tue 8/22/2006 06:25AM
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Vega Productions

just what mustard are you speaking of ciffy???

Mule absolutely RAWKS...

word to your mother.

MuleMcGee26 Tue 8/22/2006 09:37AM
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High & Mighty takes the Mule to yet another level!!! Can't wait to see them this winter!!! Where's My Mule???

‹^› ‹(•¿•)› ‹^› {¬¿¬} starstarstarstar Tue 8/22/2006 12:06PM
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‹^› ‹(•¿•)› ‹^›      {¬¿¬}

Its a great well balanced album. unring the bell, is reggae!!! I am impressed. streamline woman>classic tear your head off Mule.. It sticks with the sound they are well known for.. GO MULE!!!!! YAH MULE!!!! EYAHH!!!! Peace Ya'll

DamnDiva Fri 9/1/2006 10:35AM
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DamnDiva

Say what ya'll want........BIG DADDY & the MEN OF THE MULE put down something with HIGH & MIGHTY that will help memories happen wherever it is heard. Humble thanks, Big Daddy--I just love what you do--

pyroguyperson starstarstarstar Thu 9/7/2006 07:15PM
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pyroguyperson

huge Mule/Warren fan, like the album, huge improvement over Deja Voodoo, but still not entirely there for me yet.... nothing they'll ever do in the studio will probably be able to touch them live.

Main complaint though, too much Zeppelin influence, not enough blues and Tom Waits

Domo1 Mon 9/11/2006 07:12AM
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virginia(06)Warren w/ mule was rad, great vibe, great sound. By the banks of the deep end was heavenly! The band was so tight though, it was like they were freakin robots or something! It's ok,when Derrik Trucks came out Warren snapped out if it and proceded to melt everypick on stage and sacrify his axe as a gift to the gods! Christmas JAM??

‹^› ‹(•¿•)› ‹^› {¬¿¬} starstarstar Mon 9/11/2006 12:32PM
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‹^› ‹(•¿•)› ‹^›      {¬¿¬}

U lucky bastard Domo1. hehe.. damn!! I wanna see some shit like that. peace ya'll

Grupp Tue 9/12/2006 04:17PM
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Grupp

Lucky enuff to see these guys twice in as many weeks - VIRGIN in store promo and then again at McCarren Pool in Btown - really strong new tunes, great playing - soulful Warren with "So Sweet So Strong" as a prominent show closing ballad - and Unring is just sick live - great interplay among the guys. Get yer Dub Side of the Mule tix!!!

PlumCrazyGirl starstarstarstar Wed 11/15/2006 04:14AM
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PlumCrazyGirl

Have enjoyed many shows since becoming a Fan of Mule! Caught a show at H.O.B in Orlando Florida recently while on the High & Mighty Tour. Was, by far, the best damn Mule show I've seen so far! I was lucky enough to meet Warren and chat with him a bit. He comes up with such great lirics right from the heart! And, what a great guy! He even signed my arm with a sharpe marker! Hey,I took a picture and yes, have since washed it off! Until next time......