Review: Warren Haynes — Ashes & Dust

2.5 OUT OF 5 NUTS!

warrenhaynes-ashes&dustWarren Haynes, the Allman Brother from another mother, is the quintessential sideman – ego and arrogance-free, willing and capable of playing any style to support the music.

Apart from supporting the Allmans, Haynes has been the driving force behind the spared-down Allmans sound of Gov’t Mule, and he has sat in and toured with bands such as Grateful Dead, Blues Traveler, Dave Matthews, Son Seals, John Mayall, and James Cotton. Blues, jam-band, country, alt-country, jazz rock are all on his ticket.

He’s also released a couple of solo studio records to mixed reviews. This new effort was recorded with the New Jersey alt-bluegrass band Railroad Earth. It’s almost as if Haynes the sideman just can’t take too much time out in front of a band. Even though Haynes wrote or co-wrote 8 of the 13 tracks on the album, and sings lead on all of them, his presence still somehow still seems like that of a sideman.

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His rationale for the album was sound enough. The predominance of the banjo and violin wouldn’t fit his work with either the Allmans or Gov’t Mule. But it’s not a bluegrass album, either. Haynes reportedly wanted to record this album with Levon Helm and the sideman’s sideman, T-Bone Wolk. When both passed away in the early 2010s, the album took another form with Railroad Earth.

But you can hear Levon Helm’s influence even without his presence. This record is a little bit The Band, a little bit Grateful Dead, a little bit country/bluegrass and a little bit rock and roll. But all things considered, not a whole lot to get too excited about.

Sometimes the banjo and violin take too much time away from Haynes’ spectacular guitar playing. Occasionally the songs drag on one extra verse and two minutes time too long. The songs are solid and workmanlike portraits of Americana. Haynes’ voice has strengthened since I first heard it. The piano rag blues “Stranded in Self-Pity” is a standout track on the album, and I swore I was listening to Richard Manuel singing.

“Spots of Time”, a co-write with the Dead’s Phil Lesh, is another standout track, dealing with memory and the passage of time:

Spots of time flashed before my eyes

Like rivers of light

Hopelessly I try to touch them

Before they disappear into the night

This track veers off into a beautiful jazzy solo section where Haynes’ liquid guitar talents really shine. Another track successfully covers Fleetwood Mac’s “Gold Dust Woman”, with Grace Potter playing the role of Stevie Nicks. What do ya know, yet another frontperson for the talented Mr. Haynes to back up.

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