By Eric Thom
The dozen songs on Peace…Like A River are rife with all the symbolism you might expect from a songwriter of Haynes’ stature – its lyrics offering a positive, glass-half-full perspective on starting over and never looking back.
1. Same As It Ever Was
2. Shake Our Way Out (ft. Billy F Gibbons)
3. Made My Peace
4. Peace I Need
5. Your Only Friend
6. Dreaming Out Loud (ft. Ivan Neville and Ruthie Foster)
7. Head Full of Thunder
8. The River Only Flows One Way (ft. Billy Bob Thornton)
9. After the Storm
10. Just Across the River (ft. Celisse)
11. Long Time Coming
12. Gone Too Long
Deluxe edition (CD Only) – Time Of The Signs EP track list:
2. Under the Tent
3. Time Stands Still
4. Blue, Blue Wind
5. The River Only Flows One Way (WH vocals)
When the Grammy-nominated Heavy Load Blues – an album strictly devoted to the blues – was recorded back in 2021, Warren Haynes had an unconventional idea. Sitting atop a bag full of pandemic-penned originals, he and co-producer John Paterno set up a second studio, equipped with different gear and alternate acoustics.
Between working on the more challenging aspects of the new music in the larger room each afternoon and early evening, they’d retire to the more intimate, smaller studio and let the palate-cleansing blues take them away into the wee hours.
Marking their 12th release, the dozen songs on Peace…Like A River are rife with all the symbolism you might expect from a songwriter of Haynes’ stature – its lyrics offering a positive, glass-half-full perspective on starting over and never looking back –the river acting as metaphor for the need to follow a new path.
Each Mule release only amplifies Haynes’ role as one of the greatest, most adventurous guitarists, yet Peace… accentuates his abilities as a songwriter and an authentically soulful vocalist.
The album also underlines the monstrous musicianship of each of his simpatico players: long time drummer, Matt Abts; Jorgen Carlsson (bass, percussion, background vocals) and Danny Louis (keyboards, guitar, horns, orchestrations, backing vocals). Together, each plays an even greater role in the always-inventive explosion of Mule-isms as they reorder the rules of rock, soul, jazz and blues to move the music forward.
Celebrity is sprinkled about but it is the pairing of Haynes’ gritty, soulful rasp to Ruthie Foster’s soft, church-schooled contribution on the funky ‘Dreaming Out Loud’ (boasting a stellar bass workout from Carlsson) which hits real bone. The merging of Haynes’ gentle, slow-burn vocal to Celisse’s sweet, soul-sister strains on the beautifully arranged ‘Just Across the River’ further elevates the bar.
Lead track ‘Same As It Ever Was’ kicks off with the expected, quintessential, high-energy Mule mix as it outlines our collective rebirth in a positive light. While the Billy Bob Thornton-read ‘The River Only Flows One Way’ lends an otherworldly edge with a heavily percussive, reggae feel, it’s the smaller, slower songs like the bittersweet ‘Only Friend’ which speak loudest to the band’s true talents.
And, while Haynes gets his Jim Morrison on for the show-stopping ‘After the Storm’ – with Louis’ effervescent B3 driving the band full-tilt forward – it’s the slow, seductive grind of the EP’s ‘Blue, Blue Wind’ which rips the roof off entirely, extending the promise of what’s to come, horns and all.
Like a river, the stream of creativity which flows from Gov’t Mule – born of spontaneity and fueled by innovation and virtuosity – teaches us to celebrate the journey as it reminds us that any obstacle along the way is only temporary.
A Deluxe Edition adds four unreleased songs and a remix of ‘The River Only Flows One Way’.
Peace... Like a River is out now via Fantasy Records.