Some bands, like Pearl Jam and Dave Mathews Band for instance, are known for delivering to their fan-base a live recordings of performances. In Gov’t Mule’s case, that strategy of releasing, as much as possible, the recordings (including bootlegs, shows in small venues, etc.) is one of the most pleasant and delightful acts for the Mule’s fans. But, this time, it isn’t just a simple live performance record. It’s from the rawer and notorious era, still as a power-trio with Allen Woody on bass, at the beginnings of the band. As the album’s name makes clear, we’re talking about Mule’s live performance in Georgia, in 1997.
At that time, Gov’t Mule had released only their debut self-titled studio album (Gov’t Mule, 1995) and the first live album (Live At Roseland Ballroom, 1996). So now, 24 years later, anybody can check all the power of a band that became more than a side project of Mule’s members. Live At The Cotton Club has 29 tracks and over than 2h 20 min, and brings either a refresh or reminder to the newer Mule fans, where the cohesiveness and strength of Gov’t Mule’s songs come from. Some tracks, like “Game Face”, “Birth Of Mule” and “Blind Man In The Dark” are present on Mule’s set-list until today, even because those songs had become classics throughout the years.
They had, and still keep, the spirit of a jam band. Beyond that, inspired tributes of their influences were performed at that occasion, like Grateful Dead’s “St. Stephen Jam” and The Beatles’ “I Want You (She’s So Heavy)”. Cover songs like “Good Morning Little School Girl”, Free’s “Mr. Big” and ZZ Top’s “Just Got Paid” also were included, but always with the weight and personality that have made Gov’t Mule one of the greatest jam bands of all time. As expected, the album also brings plenty of classic blues tributes, including vocal solo performances for Blind Willie Johnson’s “John The Revelator” and Elmore James’s “I Can’t Hold Out”. Another pleasure for the listeners is the small slide blues session formed by “Goin’ Out West”, “Gonna Send You Back To Georgia” and “Just Got Paid”.
Jorgen Carlsson, the current bassman, joined the band only in 2004. But he assumed the “incumbency” of remixing and remastering Live At The Cotton Club, even being bullied by his peers that said on Facebook “…the bass might rattle your windows…”. For real, what you’ll find is flawless post-production work, preserving details and bringing the whole energy of the band straight to the front speaker. For instance, a curious detail occurs at the end of the sixth track “Birth Of Mule”, where Haynes warns the crowd that they were playing a couple of “new” songs and they would go to the studio to start the recordings of a “new” album, what later came to be the Mule’s classic Dose. Another unusual fact is that the album wasn’t released for sales (neither physical nor digital) at least so far, being available only on streaming platforms.
Live At The Cotton Club is an important record not only to realize how the band worked as power-trio but also to verify that, with the incorporation of Carlsson and Danny Louis, Gov’t Mule not only kept their roots but aggregated the natural extensions to their unique music. Blues Rock Review already reviewed other live albums, studio albums and selected our Top 10 Songs, but listening to Live At The Cotton Club makes it clear that Gov’t Mule continues to be one of the most important blues rock bands of the present day.
The Review: 9/10
Can’t Miss Tracks
– Temporary Saint
– Painted Silver Light
– Blind Man In The Dark
– Gonna Send You Back To Georgia
– Goin’ Out West
The Big Hit
– Goin’ Out West