By Andy J. Gordon
Warren Haynes has been omnipresent on the southern rock and jamband scene for the past twenty plus years, delivering searing guitar riffs and soulful vocals. As a prominent member of critically acclaimed bands like The Allman Brothers, Gov’t Mule, and The Dead, Haynes has a formidable musical repertoire at his disposal. Now, with his new solo project, The Warren Haynes Band, this guitar virtuoso has dedicated his time to reinvigorating the soul sounds that inspired him years ago. It seems only fitting, since Haynes may have taken over for James Brown as the hardest working man in show business. He seems to be everywhere – constant touring with the Allman Brothers and Gov’t Mule, hitting many festivals, sitting in with virtually everybody, and releasing new albums.
Haynes brought his new soul project to the El Rey Theatre (www.theelrey.com) in Los Angeles on June 28, 2011. The Warren Haynes Band (www.warrenhaynes.net) is a hand-picked collective that was chosen for their soul chops and live performance experience. Supporting Haynes on background and occasional lead vocals was Alecia Chakour, a soul belter who has worked with Soulive/Royal Family. Also on supporting vocals, and adding his stellar keyboards skills, was Nigel Hall (Soulive, Royal Family, Tedeschi Trucks Band.) Ron Johnson on bass (Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe, New Monsoon,) and Terence Higgins on drums (Dirty Dozen Brass Band) are experts at anchoring a soulful rhythm section. Rounding out the group is well respected tenor sax man, Ron Holloway, who has performed with many of the jam scene’s bands including Haynes’ other projects. This group has serious soul pedigree, so the El Rey show was anticipated with high expectations.
The crowd got an early reward with an opening jam that led into the Gov’t Mule song “Tear Me Down.” Haynes is an extremely generous performer, allowing his band mates room to display their chops, but it always comes back to his appealingly gravelly vocals, and incredible guitar licks. Songs from the new album Man In Motion pay tribute to the soul titans of Haynes’ youth while offering a modern interpretation. “River’s Gonna Rise,” “Sick Of My Shadow,” “Your Wildest Dreams,” and “On A Real Lonely Night” sounded like soul classics. Haynes changed things up with covers of Steely Dan’s “Pretzel Logic” and Stevie Wonder’s “I Wish.” The set concluded with “Take A Bullet” and the new album’s title track “Man In Motion.”
The second set opened with Haynes alone onstage for a few acoustic songs. He ended the mini solo set with the Eagles’ “Wasted Time.” The band came back out for a moving version of Sam Cooke’s classic “A Change Is Gonna Come.” Alecia Chakour and Nigel Hall each laid down some impressive vocals, while Ron Holloway blew a nasty sax solo. The band followed with “Fire In The Kitchen,” from Haynes’ first solo album, 1993’s Tales of Ordinary Madness. “Hattiesberg Hustle” and “Invisible,” with a Terrence Higgins drum jam, concluded the set. After a few minutes, Hall came back out and began a slow organ intro as the band reassembled for Haynes’ signature tune, “Soulshine.” It was a fitting end to the show since the song combined all the elements that make Haynes such an amazing performer and musician. His brilliant blues, rock, and soul talents blended together and were highlighted in the song. The show was excellent, and the Warren Haynes Band is another successful project from the hardest working man in the music biz. No one else makes hard work sound so good.
Photos courtesy of Andy J. Gordon