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Words by: Rich Lieberman :: Images by: Dino Perrucci

Warren Haynes & Friends :: 03.28.07 :: Irving Plaza :: New York, NY

Haynes, Freed, Kinney, McCain :: 03.28.07
Whenever Warren Haynes decides to throw a party and invite some of his musician friends to join in the festivities, run and get your tickets quick. As a guitar player, singer and songwriter, Haynes is one of the very best AND he’s played with the best. Currently doing a 15-show run with the Allman Brothers Band at their 13th annual residency at the Beacon Theatre in NYC, Haynes found an off night for another memorable guest-laden performance. “This party is to re-launch the [Evil Teen] label, to re-launch what was Wintertime Blues and is now The Benefit Concert [series], to just get the awareness going, to get people buzzin’ about things,” Haynes told us before the show. “It’s going to be an allstar jam, and it’s going to be a lot of fun!”

Warren Haynes :: 03.28.07
Securing a ticket for this show was next to impossible unless you were one of the 300 lucky fans that lined up at a NYC record store in Union Square. Each received tickets to the show and access to a pre-show CD signing. “This is kinda like a condensed version of the Christmas Jam,” explained Haynes. “We’re all excited. Who knows what will happen musically? A lot of it won’t be decided until right there on the spot.” Haynes began his annual Christmas Jam benefit concerts 18 years ago in Ashville, NC, and this great tradition has grown by leaps and bounds each year. The shows have helped raise over $600,000 for Habitat for Humanity alone.

It was almost 10 p.m. as the house lights went down on the packed ballroom. Haynes walked out alone into a lone spotlight with his acoustic guitar to open with a soulful “A Million Miles From Yesterday.” Haynes said, “I wrote that song at least 10 or 15 years ago. I started revisiting it and somewhere in the process of putting the songs together for High & Mighty I stumbled across what I felt was the finished version. It’s an introspective song. It’s very personal. It’s ‘A Million Miles From Yesterday’ so as much as that [phrase] meant when I started writing it, it couldn’t possibly mean as much as it does now. For me to be able to go back and finally finish that song really meant a lot to me. I am really pleased with the way it turned out and glad that the song has re-emerged.”

Mattison, Tedeschi, Trucks, McCain :: 03.28.07
Warren invited Kofi Burbridge out to accompany him on Dave Mason’s “Sad and Deep As You,” where Burbridge’s flute wove in and out of Haynes’s guitar in a haunting way. Old friend Edwin McCain came up next, and the duo played “Sign On The Door” from McCain’s 1999 release, Messenger, and a wonderful take on Seal’s “Crazy.” Haynes brought up former Drivin’ N’ Cryin’ frontman Kevn Kinney to play a couple of his tunes with he and McCain. Then, to the crowds’ delight, the lovely Susan Tedeschi was asked to help sing Dylan’s “I Shall Be Released.” Haynes took the first verse, Kinney the second, Tedeschi took the next verse and asked McCain to help her with the final verse.

Susan Tedeschi :: 03.28.07
Tedeschi stayed on stage for her own short solo set, and Haynes announced, “It’s gonna be a long night. There is a lot of great music coming up, but one thing we promise is that there’s a lot of great music that will never be played this way again.” Tedeschi performed an exceptional cover of Ray LaMontagne‘s “Shelter.” During the song, she admitted to the crowd that she was a bit nervous. She must have shrugged those nerves off quickly as she came back later in the evening to add some spine-tingling vocals with the Derek Trucks Band. She just about blew the roof off of Irving Plaza with her rendition of The Band’s “The Weight.”

Next, Gregg Allman and Warren Haynes stood side-by-side with their acoustic guitars. “This is a song off my very first LP,” said Allman, introducing a sweet version of “All My Friends” followed by a gorgeous take on Jackson Browne’s morose classic, “These Days.” Warren admits since rejoining The Allman Brothers in 2001 his musical relationship with Gregg has really developed. “We attempted to take it to a new level in recent years and with great success. Possibly because we know each other that much better, we just gained each other’s trust, which is very important,” explained Haynes.

Haynes & Allman :: 03.28.07
And that did it for the acoustic part of the evening. Each song had been carefully chosen by each artist and played with heartfelt emotion, drawing deeply from the heart of the material, which touched on old days, old friends, friends lost, mistakes made and lessons learned. In this intimate setting it all flowed brilliantly.

After a ten-minute break, the stage was set up in the familiar configuration. As Jaimoe and Butch Trucks took their seats at the drums and Oteil Burbridge strapped on his bass, the packed house erupted. The Allman Brothers Band was about to play Irving Plaza! Derek Trucks, then Haynes and Allman came out with big smiles. In the midst of 15 sold out shows at the Beacon, here they were about to play to a lucky few souls at one of the city’s smallest venues.

Susan Tedeschi :: 03.28.07
They wasted no time, kicking into “Come And Go Blues.” There was little room to dance on the floor, as they launched into “Jessica.” It was a fantastic and unexpected surprise to hear them break out this old fan favorite written by Dickey Betts. A look around the venue found smiling faces, eyes closed, people letting go and giving into the music. With a two-song, 20-minute set, the Allmans took the evening up a few notches.

The Derek Trucks Band with Susan Tedeschi was up next. For the first tune, Trucks stood offstage as Soulive guitarist Eric Krasno stepped up on “Evidence.” Tedeschi, wearing a gorgeous purple dress, was beyond soulful. If this preview was any indication, the upcoming summer tour with Trucks and Tedeschi is going to be special. “I Wish I Knew” was nice as Mike Mattison and Susan Tedeschi traded verses.

Trucks & Krasno :: 03.28.07
When asked to comment on Trucks’s guitar playing, Haynes said, “Derek has been one of the best guitar players on the scene for a long time. When I first heard him play he was 11 years old and a great guitar player then. He gets better and better and better constantly.” The band ripped into the Dave Mason classic “Only You Know And I Know,” where Kofi Burbridge shined on keys and Trucks took a monster mid-song lead. Krasno came back out for one more, with Trucks this time, and they broke into Aretha Franklin’s funky version of “The Weight,” which featured Duane Allman on the studio original. This 12-minute take was one of the best I’ve ever heard. The band was in the pocket, Trucks and Krasno dueling, Tedeschi singing her heart out. I turned around to see Oteil Burbridge standing next to me, smiling, eyes closed and dancing to what may have been the best performance of the evening.

Freed & Col. Bruce :: 03.28.07
Stef Scamardo [Haynes’s wife and manager] came out to thank the crowd. She commented that this kind of music could not be performed without this great fan base. With that, it was Gov’t Mule time. Haynes announced that keyboardist Danny Louis was on vacation in Mexico and Kofi Burbridge would fill in for him. The Mule opened with “Hammer And Nails,” with Haynes belting out, “It takes more than a hammer and nails to make a house a home!” Audley Freed, formerly of the Black Crowes and current tour guitarist with the Dixie Chicks, was next to join the fun for a rockin’ “32/20 Blues.” Haynes brought the tempo way down for the slowest version of “The Same Thing” I’ve ever heard. It was sung soulfully, with drummer Charlie Drayton (Ivan Neville, The Cult) sitting in.

Warren’s Friends :: 03.28.07
Krasno, Oteil, McCain, Trucks, Tedeschi, Smallie
Kevn Kinney, Edwin McCain, and Lenny Kaye (Patti Smith) came up for a good old honky tonk time on Kinney’s southern anthem, “Straight to Hell,” which transformed into “Turn On Your Lovelight,” where Col. Bruce Hampton fronted the band and jazz saxophonist Jay Collins helped take them off to the races. The encore was the beloved Little Milton (by way of Jerry Garcia) classic, “That’s What Love Will Make you Do.”

“Music, speaking for myself, is so much more fun when you don’t know what to expect,” comments Haynes. “When you are lucky enough to be surrounded with great musicians, like all of us are, it would be imposing limitations on yourself to expect things to work out a certain way. You have to open yourself up to the unexpected and just not have any preconceptions about where the music’s gonna go, let it steer itself to the extent that it will and help steer it to the extent that you can. There is so much great music that can be made in an unrehearsed fashion. If you’re with the right people it’s just incredible.”

Continue reading for the rest of our exclusive conversation with Warren Haynes…

JamBase: Do you have any video footage that you are going to dust off? Are you planning any future DVD releases?

Warren Haynes :: 03.28.07
Haynes: Yeah, the first few years that we were multi-tracking we weren’t filming, so there won’t be DVD’s for the early stuff. But, as it progressed we started bringing in film crews. A lot of years will be documented by DVD as well as CD, hopefully starting with this past year.

JamBase: I heard you were thinking of releasing “One for Woody” [a famous tribute concert for Allen Woody, the late Gov’t Mule/Allman Brothers bassist]. Is that true?

Haynes: We are working on that. That’s something we’re excited to do, so that should be coming soon.

Gov’t Mule is really tight as a band now after two studio releases and four years of touring. How happy are you with Mule as a quartet as opposed to the power trio that it started as years ago?

It’s been a little over four years for Danny [Louis] and a little under four for Andy [Hess]. This band has reached some amazing heights and gets better and better on a continual basis. This band has reached heights that I wasn’t sure we would ever get back to. I couldn’t feel better about the chemistry we have, and it’s just such a pleasure to walk on stage each night and break some new ground and make music that just keeps getting better and better.

The new songs seem to be very well received. I remember being at the record release party at the Bowery Ballroom here in NYC when you first unveiled the new material. When you’re making a studio album of fresh Mule material how conscious are you of how the songs are going to be received live?

Oteil Burbridge :: 03.28.07
The songs have been very well received from the first time we started playing them, which was that Bowery Ballroom show. All the new material seemed to make a more immediate connection with the crowd than some of our previous stuff. I don’t know how to explain that really but people have really taken to the new material very quickly. Sometimes it takes the crowd a while to latch onto your new direction. The songs continue to change and grow in an organic way. The version that we might play three months from now could be totally different than the version we recorded.

Tell me about a comment you made recently about playing with the Allman Brothers. You talked about ‘windows’ in the music and jams. Were you referring to the segues between songs and how you go from one jam or song to another?

Well, it could be that [or] it could even be within the structure of the song. [On] some of the newest stuff we’ve been working up at the Allman Brothers’ rehearsals and onstage at the Beacon, we’re putting these windows into the songs where within the structure of the song we’ll go somewhere we have never gone before and then we know how we’re going to get back. But, what happens between point A and point B is yet to be determined. It’s accomplishing a lot of different things, all of which are very cathartic for us. For one thing, it calls on us to look at the songs differently and play them differently. Even the songs we haven’t changed are being affected by this new approach. Some of these little peaks may turn into other songs in the future. They are definitely going to give us a license to stretch into some directions that we’ve never gone before, and that’s very important.

Early in this Beacon run you ended a set with [the Grateful Dead’s] “The Other One.” It was very interesting to see how the jam progressed to where you were playing the vocal lead with your guitar. Was that rehearsed?

Col. Bruce Hampton :: 03.28.07
We had been talking about it and we rehearsed that jam to whatever extent you could rehearse a jam during rehearsals. That was the first time we played that particular jam for an audience. So, it was the first time we sort of stretched it out. Once you get in front of a crowd anything goes.

Let me ask you about the covers you play. Be it with the ABB or Gov’t Mule, your fans have come to expect you to break out a great cover almost every night. How do you come up with the cover songs you play each night? Will you just hear something on the bus one day, try it out in rehearsals and if it works go with it?

Sometimes that is exactly how it happens. You may be listening to music or talking about music on the bus and somebody might get an idea for a cover. In Gov’t Mule it’s usually something that I wish I had written or that I feel that I could do a good interpretation of vocally, take it somewhere other than where it started. Sometimes we’ll try a song at soundcheck and if it works we may try it that night.

You’ve watched Derek Trucks since he was a teenager. Much like you, Derek is taking great opportunities that come his way like touring with Eric Clapton. What can you tell us about Derek?

Warren Haynes :: 03.28.07
He and I have a good rapport musically. We have from the beginning and sometimes that chemistry is made up of just the right amount of similar tastes and just the right amount of different tastes. There’s complimentary, simpatico playing where we each kind of know each other’s vocabulary but there’s [also] the contrast between [our] two styles and the two sounds and influences. Those two things work together in our case or in the case of any good guitar chemistry.

Which do you prefer, guitar playing, singing or songwriting? You often say you like all three equally. It seems like this is a good time in ABB history to contribute a lot in each area.

It’s been a great opportunity for me. When I was brought into the ABB in 1989 they brought me in as a guitar player and singer/songwriter. I was very honored to be one of the songwriters in such a great institution. A lot of bands from that era wouldn’t let that happen. When I left the band in 1997 and came back in 2001, Gregg and I started doing more and more songwriting [together]. I think our songwriting rapport has grown immensely. We wrote a few songs together in the old days, but I was writing more with Dickey [Betts]. Gregg and I had only written a few songs together before we attempted to take it to a new level in recent years, and with great success. We just gained each other’s trust, which is very important in any marriage.

Do you feel like you are taking more of a leadership role on stage and in the studio?

In Dickey’s absence they wanted me to step up and fulfill a lot of the roles that Dickey had. It’s been a very organic type of process.

With so many different side projects going on with members of the ABB right now do you see the band being able to sustain everything? Do you see yourselves slowing down, touring less or even possibly having to look at replacing someone?

I see the band slowing down a bit, doing fewer and fewer shows, but as long as everybody is having fun and the music is being played on a level that it’s being played at now, then everybody’s into keeping it going.

JamBase | New York
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