Those who are acquainted with Gov’t Mule’s live performances or the band’s origins already know that the blues were always a safe harbor in the Mule’s songs. Considering that the band released a few albums consecrated to reggae, mainly in the late 2000s, having an entire album dedicated to the blues is a decision that makes plain sense. After releasing six albums in a row, from 2019 to 2021, all of them with live performances and even interviews, Gov’t Mule has decided to release Heavy Load Blues, an album entirely turned to the blues, honoring some of their influences.
Previously revisited by Eric Clapton on his anthological From The Cradle (1994), “Blues Before Sunrise” also binds Gov’t Mule to one of their highest blues influencers, Elmore James. In this tribute, Mule’s keyboardist/guitarist Danny Louis performs an apart show on piano, beside the harmonica solos and slide guitar lines. “Hole In My Soul” brings a horn section that totally changes the direction, followed by a Hammond and consistent drums & bass background plainly filled by Warren’s vocals. This recipe continues to be explored in “Wake Up Dead”, a strong blues song, with nice solos on Hammond and guitar.
Despite incorporating most of the blues elements, “Love Is A Mean Old Word” isn’t a traditional blues song, having Warren’s voice as a mainstay. Paying a tribute to Junior Wells, “Snatch It Back And Hold It” represents another blues branch, where Mule inserted a long interlude, the way they used to perform it live. “Ain’t No Love In The Heart Of The City” in principle can be mistaken for a slow blues, but this Whitesnake classic flows in a non-traditional chord sequence, despite having nice blues solos. Gov’t Mule also gives a high-level blues version to The Animal’s tune, “(Brother Bill) Las Clean Shirt”.
The lysergic Tom Waits blues “Make It Rain” was previously released as a single. It goes rhythmically, leveraged by Warren’s vocals and guitar solos. “Heavy Load” and “Black Horizon” are acoustic blues tunes, remembering some acoustics sessions that Warren performed beside Derek Trucks with the Allman Brothers Band. Placing the kitchen and keys in the spotlight, “Feel Like Breaking Up Somebody’s Home” sounds like some tune that they probably will explore extensively live. In the slow blues “If Heartaches Were Nickels”, Gov’t Mule gives a tense and riveting performance. They also embodied Hendrix’s soul in the Howlin’ Wolf tune “I Asked Her For Water (She Gave Me Gasoline)”, turning it into some kind of extended “Foxy Lady” version.
It’s important to mention that Heavy Load Blues isn’t restricted to these thirteen songs. It also will be released in a Deluxe Edition which includes eight more songs. That’s another tradition by Gov’t Mule, never “saving” songs, but doing exactly the opposite, satisfying their fan base with a lot of tracks on each album. Along their almost 30 years on the road, Gov’t Mule remains as a jam-rock band that honors all their influences. But their essence, the rock soul, is always there, either playing reggae or a blues tune.
The Review: 9/10
Can’t Miss Tracks
– Blues Before Sunrise
– Wake Up Dead
– Ain’t No Love In The Heart Of The City
– Feel Like Breaking Up Somebody’s Home
The Big Hit
– Wake Up Dead