Jackson Browne, Peter Frampton, Bruce Hornsby, Col. Bruce Hampton, Audley Freed, G. Love and Many More Celebrate Xmas with Warren Haynes & Govt Mule
Warren Haynes annual Christmas Jam has gradually expanded over the past 18 years and, a year shy of its 20th anniversary, has blossomed into a week long event, featuring art shows, stealth performances, film screenings and community action throughout Asheville, NC. Before the Xmas Jam, the local venue Stella Blue hosted a number of notable Southeast alternative bands, including Jason Isbell (Muscle Shoals, AL), Dixie Dirt (Knoxville, TN), Be It The Means (Birmingham, AL), Sleepy Horses (Athens, GA), Mother Jackson (Athens, GA) and Warm In The Wake (Decatur, GA), while the Jack of The Wood played host to Xmas Jam veteran Kevn Kinneys All-Star Acoustic Jam (which featured appearances by Jason Isbell, Grace Potter, Ray Sisk, Audley Freed, Robert Kearns and G. Love). Before taking the stage at the annual WNCW Pre-Jam held at the Orange Peel, Haynes also stopped by Stella Blue to play a surprise show with Govt Mules Matt Abts and Andy Hess, former Black Crowes guitarist Audley Freed and Bernie Worrell that included an instrumental version of Lively up Yourself, among other selections. In addition, the Orange Peel hosted a Hometown Jam for locals on December 12 that found Haynes playing with a few of his longtime friends, including on his trademark Soulshine.
WNCWs Pre-Jam was itself a mini-festival, featuring the likes of new southern-rockers Dead Confederate, recent Mule touring partners Grace Potter and the Nocturnals (with Govt Mules Andy Hess on bass), former Drive-By Truckers guitarist Jason Isbell and his 400 Unit, a reunion performance by Dave Schools and Jerry Josephs Stockholm Syndrome group, Kevn Kinney, the legendary Peter Frampton and, of course, Govt Mule. Haynes opened the night alone with his guitar, delivering solo versions of the Jerry Garcia eulogy Patchwork Quilt and Fallen Down. After the first Xmas Jam weekend performance by Dead Confederate, Isbell showed off his new band and brought Freed out for a version of Hurricanes & Hand Grenades. He also invited out longtime Haynes associate, and former Screamin’ Cheetah Wheelies frontman, Mike Barnes for Try. Later in the evening, Farris and Freed anchored an ad hoc group consisting of drummer Greg Morrow, saxophonist Rob Holloway and Govt Mule keyboardist Danny Louis for a three song set consisting of Take What I Want, Down By The River and I’ll Take You There (the latter number also found Kevn Kinney and Robert Kearns contributing backup vocals).
After having made inroads into the jamband scene thanks to appearances with moe. and the Allmam Brothers, as well as a collaboration with Guster at the Jammys, Peter Frampton showed off his axe-might on a mini-set consisting of Four Day Creep, Shotgun, Blooze and I Don’t Need No Doctor. As expected, Haynes helped Frampton through the latter number, while Holloway played saxophone on Blooze. The night ended with a guest-heavy set by Govt Mule that saw Holloway and Barnes play on 32/20 Blues, Col. Bruce Hampton, Bernie Worrell and Holloway sit-in on the Hampton staple Fixin’ To Die, G. Love and Worrell appear on You Don’t Love Me and, finally, Holloway and Worrell help the Mule close things out with a take on Spanish Moon.
The Xmas Jam proper took place at the Ashville Civic Center on Saturday and featured an even more impressive group of musicians. Haynes, Louis, Bruce Hornsby and a full gospel choir welcomed fans with a beautiful version of Soulshine that helped set the tone of the evening. Farris then took the stage with Haynes, Louis, Hornsby and the choir for a version of Trouble of The World, before Grace Potter offered a proper set with the Nocturnals (and guest guitarist Mike Barnes on Watching You). The new version of Stockholm Syndrome, which features Louis on keyboards, previewed its 2008 tour with a short performance that found singer/songwriter Machan Taylor appearing on Bouncing Very Well and both Taylor and Haynes sitting-in on Couldn’t Get It Right.
The evenings real hitters mostly cut their teeth in the classic-rock era. Jackson Browne celebrated his first Xmas Jam by covering Bob Dylans Desolation Row with the help of Stockholm Syndrome percussionist, and old friend, Wally Ingram and Bernie Worrell. Soon after, Hornsby appeared on Next Voice You Hear, before the Range founder stepped down so Haynes could play with one of his idols on Lives In The Balance and Patriot. Hornsbys set balanced hits like End of the Innocence (which featured both Browne and Haynes), fan favorites like the Rob Wasserman collaboration White Wheel Limo (that featured Haynes and Holloway) and show stoppers like the set closing Rainbow Cadillac (which drew in Haynes, Holloway and Bernie Worrell).
G. Love provided a similar forum for many of the evenings younger and lesser known musicians, including Jason Isbell, Andy Hess and fiddler Dave Muhlethaler, each of whom rotated in-and-out throughout the blues/rap stars set. Haynes also took the stage with G. Love and Worrell to help G. Love close his performance with Peace, Love & Happiness.
While Peter Frampton repeated a number of songs from the weekends Pre-Jam, he still offered a unique setlist, including his hit Do You Feel Like We Do and a cover of George Harrisons While My Guitar Gently Weeps. The evenings host, Govt Mule, also appeared with Frampton during his performance, including Haynes on a version of I Don’t Need No Doctor.
Govt Mule ended things early in the morning with an eight song show that opened with Beautifully Broken and included I’m A Ram, Streamline Woman, Mr. High & Mighty and another stab at Fixin To Die that featured Col. Bruce Hampton, Jason Isbell, Bernie Worrell and Ron Holloway. Next up, Frampton and Worrell sat-in on I Believe to My Soul, while Holloway and Barnes enhanced a choice take on 32/20 Blues. Finally, Govt Mule closed the night with a cover of Goin Out West with Freed, once again on guitar.
A syndicated radio program called Inside the 19th Annual Xmas Jam will air next week. Govt Mules management company has also confirmed that the annual Jam will expand into a two night affair to celebrate it 20th anniversary in 2008.