critic’s pick 298: gov’t mule, ‘shout’ and north mississippi allstars, ‘world boogie coming’

shout“World boss is coming,” asserts Warren Haynes as Gov’t Mule’s new Shout! album shoots to life. The music harnesses a dense, sweaty groove that sounds like Stevie Ray Vaughan in his prime. But the prideful guitar lead is very much in keeping with the mesh of dark blues and Southern-fried psychedelia that has always been at the heart of the band’s best tunes.

Brothers Luther and Cody Dickinson, on the other hand, evoke an eerily similar muse in the title of the North Mississippi Allstars’ new recording: World Boogie is Coming.

Listen to these fine albums side by side and you will discover just how like-minded their source material is even though their resulting music is often radically different.

Shout! is a feast of a blues jam album – a 75 minute adventure that has Haynes and Mule mainstay Matt Abts continuing to expand on a guitar-savvy sound that, engaging as it has always been, used to paint them into a stylistic corner. Here, the band’s current quartet lineup offers us Whisper in Your Soul (an enticing slo-mo romp that recalls Cream at its nastiest), Captured (a slow and steady blues that bears more than a passing resemblance to Pink Floyd) and Stoop So Low (a beefy serving of churchy funk that does a wonderful about face into revivalistic gospel and soul).

That doesn’t even touch upon the Sly & Robbie flavored dub of Scared to Live and the afterhours cool percolating within When the World Gets Small.

But that’s just half the fun. Shout! also boasts a second disc of the album’s 11 songs with a reshuffled running order. These alternate versions add in guest artists to varying effect. Reggae star Toots Hibbert is a natural fit for Scared to Live while the world weary singing of Steve Winwood gives When the World Gets Small a sleek twilight hue that recalls his ‘70s records with Traffic. For the most part, though, the guests don’t pack the same vocal grit and depth Haynes injects into the first disc. In short, the Mule can shout just fine on its own.

world boogie is comingWorld Boogie is Coming mines earthier tradition than Shout! Still, the leaner blues exercises more than once recall Gov’t Mule’s bluesier tendencies.

There is a shorter guest list here, as well. But the Dickinsons definitely make the most of what they have – like Robert Plant (who they toured with a few years back) blowing wicked harmonica through the ghostly album opening instrumental JR and the subsequent gutbucket groove of Goat Meat (“it ain’t fit to eat”).

Dickinson originals rotate with tunes by such Allstars’ inspirations as Junior Kimbrough, RL Burnside and Otha Turner. The result is a blues and boogie groove stew that couldn’t be more worldly.

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