By Producer, Director and Writer Jim Lyons of
Steppin’ Out Spokane
Warren Haynes brought Soulshine back to Spokane, Washington on October 26th; literally and figuratively. The hardest working man in rock and roll rolled into town in support of his first solo effort in 19 years, Man in Motion with The Warren Haynes Band. The soulful jazzy rhythm and blues sound of this ensemble is a departure from the Southern Rock of both the Allman Brothers Band and Gov’t Mule, and the Dead that have been Warren’s mainstays for the last decade. The Album was recorded at Willie Nelson’s Pedernales “cut and putt” studio on the site of an old golf and country club outside of Austin. The Warren Haynes Band is Warren Haynes-guitar and vocals, Nigel Hall-keyboards and vocals, Ron Johnson-bass, Terrance Higgins, drums, Ron Holloway-tenor saxophone and Alecia Chakour-vocals.
From the first notes of the intro into the title cut Man in Motion two things came to mind. Warren was in the house, and the entire band was the stars of the show, not just him. The receptive crowd at The Knitting Factory was dancing and singing along with them for the entire three plus hours of this show. Before going into his second number, “The River’s Gonna Rise” Warren asked if there was an Occupy Spokane and was greeted with an enthusiastic response of yes. “This song goes out to all of the protestors of Occupy Spokane, and all across the country who are standing up for what they believe in.” The dance fest was on. The gospel rhythm and blues sound of The Rivers Gonna Rise, combined with the strong lyrics of support for the oppressed definitely occupied Spokane.
This was followed by Sick of My Shadow into A Friend to You. Any Warren Haynes fan knows that at some
point he is going to melt your face with searing solos. Warren was primarily playing his blonde semi hollow body Gibson ES 345 and Gibson 335. His infamous guitar tech Brian Farmer is having a relatively easy tour because Warren is basically only playing those two guitars and a Les Paul. Farmer maintains up to eight guitars for Warren with the Mule, and true to his nature is seamlessly on and off stage for all guitar switches. Some of the players in the Warren Haynes Band vary from the studio lineup which included Ivan Neville and George Porter, but the genuine soulful feel remains.
Warren was trading solos with Alecia on vocals, Nigel on keyboards, and constantly with Ron Holloway’s searing tenor saxophone solos. The show remained true to the album Man in Motion with a few other Warren numbers interspersed including the rocking Fire in the Kitchen from his last solo effort. The players in this band were top notch. Nigel’s jams on keyboard would provide the solid Hammond b3 sound essential to Warren’s southern rock roots and take you off on Herbie Hancock like jazz jams in the same song. Playing off of Holloway’s Sax jams too brought all of American music roots to each song; Rhythm and Blues, New Orleans Jazz, Gospel and straight up rock and roll. During a tasteful drum solo, my friend Ben leaned over to me and said “does he have three feet?” Higgins was actually playing melodic bass riffs on the drums, and at one point Nigel left his keyboards to go and stand next to him applauding. These folks were as happy as they were talented.
The second set had Warren coming out with Johnson and Higgins for a beautiful acoustic Patchwork Quilt. His vocals are always an instrument in their own right, and this show was no exception. The third song of the set featured Warren playing slide for the Little Feat classic Sailing Shoes. Lowell George was definitely in the house. Then Warren moved into 32/20 blues into Nigel vocals for Fiyou on the Bayou back into 32/20. The place was rocking to Bullet. A short break was followed by the band coming back for an encore with Warren introducing the band into an amazing Soulshine.
After the show I talked to Warren about the birth of his son Hudson, the direction of Man in Motion and his future plans. “He is an incredible joy,” he said with a grin regarding Hudson who was born a week before. Warren has played the Beacon Theater in NYC more than any artist, over 300 shows. “I am touring with this group through November, and am playing with the Allman Brothers in Philly and Boston at the end of November and early December, and the Christmas Jam on December 10th in Asheville I will be playing with Phil and Friends, and the Mule. “ I shared my goal to see him at the Beacon and he said “come on out for New years for Gov’t Mule.” I told him I was going to San Francisco for New Years with Furthur. He said “I didn’t know they were doing New Years. That is cool, I guess you will have to go on the cruise with Gov’t Mule in January to Jamaica.” There may have never been a better named album because Mr. Warren Haynes is definitely a Man in Motion.