Class acts: they still exist. Take Gov’t Mule. This trio has always gone about business with the utmost class, treating both fans and the music with endless respect. Now comes The Deep End Vol. 1, the hard rockin’ blues-rock group’s first release since the death of bassist Allen Woody in 2000.
The Deep End Vol. 1 features a different guest bassist on each track, and comes off as both the ultimate classy tribute to the late bassist, and the Mule’s most musically accomplished work yet.
Lyrical references to Woody arise (the title track in particular), adding to the emotional impact. A healthy addition of keyboards and horns, meanwhile, give the Mule’s signature gritty sound a new dimension. Highlights are many, including “Life on the Outside,” a workout featuring funk legend Larry Graham on bass and a Haynes solo shootout with Audley Freed of the Black Crowes, and a cover of Grand Funk Railroad’s “Sin’s A Good Man’s Brother” with Woody on bass.
The variety of guest talent here is outstanding. Sure, ya got your expected longtime friends (Phish’s Mike Gordon, Dave Matthews Band’s Stefan Lessard), but guitarist/vocalist Warren Haynes and drummer Matt Abts team with an interesting mix of cool legends (Graham, Bootsy Collins, Jack Bruce, Deep Purple’s Roger Glover, the Who’s John Entwhistle) and exciting left-fielders (Flea of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, underground legend Mike Watt, jazz guitarist John Scofield). It proves they have plenty of friends, as well as loads of peer respect.
A film documenting The Deep End Vol. 1 recording sessions is set for a winter release. The Deep End Vol. 2 album, slated to include performances by, among others, bassists Phil Lesh, Meshell N’degeocello and Les Claypool (Primus), is planned for spring ’02.
This article originally appeared in VG‘s Mar ’02 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.