To some, rocker Warren Haynes making an album that sounds like classic soul might not seem like a natural thing to do. Haynes, after all, is the leader of the rock/jam group Gov't Mule and the guitarist who helped the Allman Brothers return to glory and the Grateful Dead carry on after Jerry Garcia's death.
But Haynes says he's just getting back to his roots.
"The first sound that I fell in love with and made me want to sing was black gospel music in Asheville coming over the radio when I was 5 or 6 years old," says Haynes. "Hearing that and having the hair on my arm standing up and thinking, 'What IS that and why is it changing the way I feel?' Then James Brown was the next step to me, which had the same effect. James Brown was my hero."
Two older brothers brought in discs by the Temptations, Sam and Dave, the Four Tops, Otis Redding and other soul greats.
"I was listening to soul music before I ever discovered rock and roll music," says Haynes, who will perform at the final Sundown in the City concert on June 16.
"I remember Ike and Tina's version of 'Proud Mary.' I had the single and I would play it over and over. But it was the same with Wilson Pickett singles and James Brown singles. A lot of that really hit me hard. Back then you only had a handful of records anyway, so you just listened to them over and over."
Raised in Asheville, N.C., Haynes began playing guitar when he was in middle school.
"When I heard rock and roll was when I started wanting to play the guitar," he says.
In his early 20s, Haynes played guitar for outlaw country great David Allan Coe. Through working in Coe's band, he became friends with Allman Brother Dickey Betts, and by the time Betts asked Haynes to join the Dickey Betts Band and then the reunited Allman Brothers he came not only as an ace guitarist, but a fresh songwriter for the group.
Haynes released his first solo album, "Tales of Ordinary Madness," in 1993, but didn't release another full-length solo album until this year's "Man In Motion."
He says the decision to do the album was because he had been accumulating songs that didn't sound like Allman Brothers or Gov't Mule songs. They did, however, lend themselves to a soul environment. He called up buddies Ivan Neville, George Porter Jr., Ruthie Foster and other friends and booked time at Willie Nelson's studio in Austin, Texas. Ian McLagen, longtime keyboardist with the Faces, lives in town and was invited to share keyboard duties with Neville.
"If you listen to the mix, in the left side you have Ivan Neville playing organ and clavinet and in the right side it's Ian McLagan playing piano and electric piano," says Haynes.
It was decided to record old school - on analog tape - and to let the musicians come up with their own parts and to move quickly.
"We were not looking for perfection. We were looking to capture the spontaneity and the emotion that that music thrives on. We would literally learn the songs from the ground floor and start recording and as soon as if felt good, we would say, 'That's the take. Let's move on.' "
He says there was a temptation to do what many old classics did, which is fade out the songs when the musicians were getting into a groove.
"As a kid, I not only wondered what I was missing, but I'd get angry. Like, 'Man, they've just started cooking and they faded it out!' "
Haynes decided that, despite the modern tendency for a short attention spans, his fans would want to hear the musicians play at the end.
Haynes has plans for another Gov't Mule album and to play some Gov't Mule shows, but right now he's concentrating and taking the fun he had making "Man In Motion" to the road.
"Every night is getting better than the night before. Our starting place was great. The first show was great, but it's just getting better all the time."
Warren Haynes - "Man In Motion" EPK
© 2011, Knoxville News Sentinel Co.
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