staying busy with warren haynes

warren Haynes. photo by danny clinch.

warren Haynes. photo by danny clinch.

By now, a new stylistic shift in the career of Warren Haynes should be viewed as standard operating procedure.

For the past three decades, the heralded guitarist and songwriter has maintained a seemingly restless artistic course that has weaved in and out of two mainstay ensembles – the legendary Allman Brothers Band (which dissolved in 2014) and his own long running Gov’t Mule. There have also been several high profile moonlighting projects (the newest being an orchestral tribute to Jerry Garcia) and a solo career.

Haynes’ solo work has been an adventure just unto itself. He embraced soul and blues tradition on 2011’s Man in Motion but altered course for bluegrass and roots rock-oriented instrumentation on 2015’s Ashes and Dust. The latter record brings Haynes back to Lexington for a Saturday concert at the Opera House.

“I love being busy,” Haynes said. “There are a lot of songs that I’ve written that I haven’t recorded yet and a lot of projects that I want to do that haven’t come to fruition yet. So I just kind of continue plowing ahead to see what happens.”

The mix of Haynes’ electric guitar expression and the predominantly acoustic roots framework on Ashes and Dust circles back to an elemental form of songwriting he has long enjoyed, as well as to a previous project that was never realized.

“I was going to make a record seven or eight years ago before I made Man in Motion. I was going to make a record with Levon Helm, Leon Russell and a bass player named T-Bone Wolk (a longtime bandmate of Hall & Oates with a distinguished studio career). Then T-Bone passed away and then Levon passed away, so that record kind of disintegrated. I turned around at that point and made Man in Motion because I had written a lot of songs in that soul music meets blues direction, as well, and wasn’t exactly sure how to continue with the songs I had prepared for the record we never made.

“So after Man in Motion, we made another Gov’t Mule record called Shout! Then I thought, ‘Well, I should start thinking about revisiting some of those other songs.’ I had been writing a lot of new songs in that direction, as well. I just started recording as many songs as possible in that direction and picked 13 that I felt worked together to make the most cohesive statement.”

Ashes and Dust was recorded with Railroad Earth, the celebrated bluegrass-inspired jam unit, as his support band. There was initial touring together after the album’s release last summer. But Haynes quickly saw the need for a group more specific and exclusive to handle a longer trek of touring.

“I did the record with Railroad Earth, but we realized that our touring schedules weren’t going to mesh beyond doing two or three weeks, which we did early on. So I put together a whole other band, starting with my friend Jeff Sipe (whose credits include the Aquarium Rescue Unit, Leftover Salmon and Kentucky performances with Dave Matthews Band saxophonist Jeff Coffin). Jeff is one of my favorite drummers. Then I reached out to Bela Fleck, who turned me on to these guys in a (Nashville) trio call ChessBoxer. It’s fiddle, banjo and upright bass group that I checked out and really loved. In addition to the stuff from Ashes and Dust, we’re doing a lot of material that spans my career or that I’m connected to in one way or another, and just putting our own spin on it. It’s really been a blast.

“I feel like I’m surrounded by so many incredible musicians and have my hands in a lot of wonderful projects. It’s a great feeling to have these kinds of opportunities.”

Warren Haynes performs at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 27 at the Lexington Opera House, 401 W. Short. Tickets are $44.50. Call 800-745-3000, 859-233-3535 or got to ticketmaster.com.



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