Warren Haynes and The Ashes & Dust band set to take stage at Penn’s Peak on March 3
James Brown may have rightfully been known as the hardest-working man in show business, but if there’s anyone who’s been sharing, and now carrying on that mantle, it would be guitar-playing singer-songwriter Warren Haynes.
Best known for being recruited by his old boss Dickey Betts to hold down the other guitar slot when the Allman Brothers Band relaunched for its second act in 1989, Haynes has worn many other hats since that time. He’s a founding member of the jam-band power trio Gov’t Mule, a partner with his wife in the Evil Teen label imprint she founded, a long-running member of the Grateful Dead’s circle who has performed with Phil Lesh, Bob Weir, Bill Kreutzmann and Mickey Hart as a member of The Dead. He’s also an in-demand guitarist with guest spots recording with a mind-boggling list of artists and he’s set to take stage at Jim Thrope’s Penn’s Peak on March 3.
Somehow during all of this, the Asheville, North Carolina, native has found time to somehow keep a respectable solo career going dating back to his 1993 debut, “Tales of Ordinary Madness.” Speaking from his home in Westchester County, New York, Haynes has now hit the road in support of his latest effort, “Ashes & Dust,” a self-produced album he made with the bluegrass-rooted band Railroad Earth. With this only being his third solo studio outing (the follow-up to 2011’s “Man in Motion”), he admits his approach to this part of his career is fairly deliberate.
“I really only make solo records when I feel like I’ve written a bunch of songs in a similar direction that don’t really seem like Allman Brothers songs or Gov’t Mule songs. My last solo album was ‘Man in Motion,’ which is kind of soul music meets blues,” Haynes said. “The songs for ‘Ashes & Dust’ are ones that I’ve been writing my entire life and I’ve been writing a lot in this direction recently, so I felt like it was time to start recording and documenting a lot of these songs. ‘Ashes & Dust’ is like folk-inspired, kind of a singer-songwriter record, but with a lot of playing and improvisation. But it is very much more about the songs and my voice and surrounding my electric guitar with acoustic instruments, which is more the way these songs were written.”
Indeed, Haynes and Railroad Earth serve up a varied stew of songs that range from “Stranded in Self Pity,” which has a klezmer-like buoyancy applied to it thanks to some infectious clarinet and piano accompaniment, to the western-inspired “Glory Road,” with its mention of gunslingers, saddlebags and downtown ladies that gets sprinkled amid crying fiddle and trilling mandolin. Elsewhere, he applies some biting slide guitar to a old-time music reading of Billy Edd Wheeler’s “Coal Tattoo,” which is punched up by Andy Goessling’s banjo playing, and the self-penned “Company Man,” a tale of layoffs and economic uncertainty with enough unforced country music nuances to it that would bode well for anyone not trying to be the next Taylor Swift or Rascal Flatts.
About the only hint of conventionality on this recording is a simmering cover of Fleetwood Mac’s “Gold Dust Woman,” which is given a Celtic twist and features Grace Potter reprising her role from when the two had performed it together on the road.
A southern kid who grew up an Atlanta Braves fan playing Little League baseball and once pitched against Cal Ripken Jr. when he was 13 years old, Haynes’ baptism by fire came when he was 19 and recruited to play in the band of noted honky-tonk hell-raiser David Allan Coe. During this time Haynes met Betts and Gregg Allman through their friendship with Coe.
Haynes’ entry into the country music world found him co-writing “Two of a Kind, Workin’ On a Full House,” a song Garth Brooks caught wind of and took to the top of the country charts in 1991.
And while the Allman Brothers Band called it quits in 2014, Haynes’ creative card continues to be full. Last year, there was touring in support of the latest Gov’t, Mule album, “Shout!” — a two-disc set featuring the band only on the first disc and the second disc comprised of the same songs, only this time with a stellar lineup of guest vocalists joining in on the fun, including Elvis Costello, Dr. John, Grace Potter and Steve Winwood.
Now he’s back on the road playing a set that’s a mix of material off “Ashes & Dust,” some Allman Brothers and Gov’t Mule gems and the odd Little Feat and/or Brooks cover. Haynes has gotten used to filling his schedule in this post-Allmans world.
“It’s about the same. I’m really busy—a lot of touring and a lot of recording,” he said. “Gov’t Mule was really busy up until fairly recently. It’s nice to have a little bit of time at home, but my schedule gets pretty hectic as of this tour.”
IF YOU GO
What: Warren Haynes and The Ashes & Dust band
Where: Penn’s Peak, 325 Maury Road, Jim Thorpe
Time: 8 p.m. doors open at 7 p.m.
Date: Thursday, March 3
How much: Advance tickets $33; at the door $38
For more information visit www.pennspeak.com or call 1-866-605-7325