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Published: 2001/11/21
by Chip Schramm

The Deep End, volume 1 – Gov’t Mule

ATO Records 0004

It was with much fanfare and public anticipation that Gov't Mule released
their latest album and the first project of the post-Allen Woody era. "The
Deep End" was well promoted from the outset, and for good reason. As a true
tribute to the late bass master, Warren Haynes and Matt Abts gathered 12 of
the best bassmen in the industry to play on the 12 new studio tracks on the
album. They were some of Woody's greatest influences and each brings
something unique to each track on the album. In addition, some copies of
"The Deep End" include a bonus disc with four extra live tracks. As if that
wasn't enough, the 17 total tracks also feature thirteen other talented
guest musicians (and fourteen if you count bassist Dave Schools on the bonus
disc).

The most enjoyable thing about this album is the fact that each track bears
the traits of the guest bassists and musicians that play on it, yet the
overall sound it still well within the realm of Warren Haynes' trademark
guitar and Matt Abts drums and percussion. Track one, Fool’s Moon
features Jack Bruce (Cream) on bass, and bumps along with a bluesy shuffle.
The symbolic references between Woody and the lyrics start right here. Just
like a "fool's moon," he too burned out "way too soon." Life On the
Outside features bass pioneer Larry Graham (Sly and the Family Stone) as
well as Audley Freed (Black Crowes) on guitar. With an uplifting beat and
motivational message "Freedom train is comin' all around the world,
Talking 'bout freedom yeah bring it on," this was a great pick for the
first single off the album. The vocals in the chorus are very smooth and
well mixed on this tune, to boot.

Banks Of the Deep End is the most moving and personal song on the
album. With the undeniably allegorical tale of losing a "best friend" to the
"deep end," Haynes sings a somber tale of trying to keep it all together
during hard times. Mike Gordon (Phish, in case you aren't keeping score by
now,) plays a prominent role on bass and vocals. In fact, the chorus on this
track is one of the vocal highlights of the entire album. The eerily
appropriate Down and Out In New York City seems like it matches the
sentiments of those brave New Yorkers who are still trying to put the pieces
of their battered metropolis back together. Flea (Red Hot Chili Peppers)
plays bass, while Rob Barraco (Phil and Friends) adds some keyboard work and
a bevy of horn players provide some nice brass touches in the background.

Other strong points on the album include an Allman Brothers-themed line-up
(with Gregg, Derek Trucks, and Oteil Burbridge) for Worried Down With the
Blues. That one matches the style of the players superbly, as do most of
the tracks on "The Deep End." The previous track, Sco-Mule is as
self-descriptive as they come. John Scofield and Chris Wood add guitar and
bass respectively to this jazzy bopping number, while old Mule friend Bernie
Worrell does some dirty work on the Clavinet. Bootsy Collins furthers the
P-funk alumni presence with some groovy bass lines on Tear Me Down,
one of my personal favorite tracks on the album. Worrell supports Haynes'
catchy lead riff well here again. The song fades out with sounds of the
mothership lifting off, and Bootsy bidding, "Hey brother Allen, rest in
peace, baby" as only he can.

Overall, "The Deep End" is an album that is complex in both breadth and
depth. It really should be, given how many world-class musicians took part,
so it's safe to say that it lives to the high expectations that were set
before its release. Not every single track is breathtaking, but there's
plenty on here to satisfy music fans of most any persuasion, though rock and
blues are especially apparent throughout. The last track is even an
unreleased track with Allen Woody himself on bass — Sin's a Good Man's
Brother. And, of course, the bonus disc has Dave Schools plus Mike
Gordon and Page McConnell on a track, so you can play two degrees of
separation with the names on this album all day long. But Ive typed long
enough. You just gotta take the plunge yourself to fully appreciate the
music in "The Deep End".

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