Life Before Insanity

Gov't Mule

Capricorn Records, 2000

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


Warren Haynes has always had a gift at capturing the groove. Whether it was during his stint in The Allman Brothers Band or his short-lived solo career (to the best ofmyknowldge, he only recorded one solo disc - but what a disc that was!) to the blues-jam trio Govt. Mule. You don't have to be a fan of Soutern rock to appreciate what Haynes does to the music, as evidenced on Govt. Mule's latest release, Life Before Insanity.

The group - vocalist/guitarist Haynes, bassist Allen Woody and drummer Matt Abts - uses challenging rhythm patterns, killer riffs and powerful songwriting to capture the listener for the duration of this album. And while the energy noticably lags several times, overall it's a great journey you'll want to take again and again.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Musically, Life Before Insanity runs the gamut, from all-out rockers that captivate the listener ("Bad Little Doggie") to works whose time signatures keep your mind active ("Wandering Child"), Haynes and crew leave no doubt that they can play most any genre thrown their way. They even get into bluesy ballads ("Fallen Down," "Far Away"), all-out ballads ("In My Life") and, in the rare "proper" use of a bonus track, all-out blues ("If I Had Possession Over Judgment Day"). Throughout these numbers, Govt. Mule is so powerful that one has to wonder why they haven't become a bigger force to be reckoned with.

Regrettably, the ebbs in the album's power tend to answer these questions. Tracks like "World Gone Wild," "No Need To Suffer" and, to a lesser extent, "Tastes Like Wine" almost lull the listener to sleep, failing to capture the excitement and freshness that other tracks exude. Even a track featuring Ben Harper's vocals and guitar work, "Lay Your Burden Down," doesn't kindle the kind of fire you'd expect from such a pairing.

Don't think, though, that Life Before Insanity is a bad album; the strong tracks easily carry this disc through, and leave you wanting to go through the entire musical journey again. But what Haynes and crew need to work on is figuring out what it takes to keep that fresh approach to the music running throughout the course of the whole album. It's not the easiest thing in the world to accomplish - and I'm not saying I could do better - but Gov't Mule's successes on this disc leave little room for doubt that they're indeed capable of achieving the goal.

Fans of groups like The Allman Brothers Band, or anyone who's followed Haynes's work over the last decade or so, will definitely want to check out Life Before Insanity - but be prepared to be taken on a ride with many highs and lows.

Rating: B

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 2000 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Capricorn Records, and is used for informational purposes only.