Warren Haynes says Dickey Betts and Derek Trucks are “two distinctly different personalities”


By Steve Newton

When original Gov’t Mule bassist Allen Woody died of a heart attack in August of 2000, he left a sizable pair of shoes that have taken bandmates Warren Haynes and Matt Abst more than three years to fill. At first, the two remaining members didn’t even bother trying to find a replacement; they just brought in an incredible lineup of the world’s top four-string players to perform on the two-volume Deep End CDs, which paid homage to their fallen friend.

John Entwistle, Jack Bruce, Flea, Chris Squire, Willie Weeks, Alphonso Johnson, Mike Watt, Bootsy Collins, Jason Newsted, Roger Glover, Les Claypool, Larry Graham, and Tony Levin were among the famed bassists who joined guitarist-vocalist Haynes and drummer Abts on the Deep End studio discs, as well as last year’s formidable live CD/DVD, The Deepest End.

While keyboardist Danny Louis had become a permanent Mule member in 2002, it wasn’t until September of ’03 that the bottom end was finally filled with the enlistment of Andy Hess, a former member of the Black Crowes and touring bassist with jazz-guitar ace John Scofield.

“Andy plays all the different genres of music that we explore equally well,” reports Haynes, on the phone from his band’s office in New York. “Every path we go down he’s right there with us. And he has that instant lock with Matt that you need in a rhythm section. The chemistry that the four of us have now is what people start bands based on in the first place.”

The first album to showcase the current lineup, the new Deja Voodoo features the soulful, southern-flavoured blues-rock the band is noted for. But The Deep End‘s tunes of loss and healing have given way to more topical issues.

For example, on the rampaging “Mr. Man”, main songwriter Haynes seethes against the foreign policy of U.S. prez George W. Bush. “There’s no concern for the people dyin’,” intones the whisky-throated singer, “There’s more concern for keepin’ the upper hand/In their faces–we’re laughin’ in their faces/And you still don’t understand why they hate you, Mr. Man”.

There’s another track on Deja Voodoo that, judging by its title, seems like it could be a comment on the inability of the White House’s born-again cowboy to understand the world. But “Little Toy Brain” isn’t necessarily about Dubya. “That wasn’t the original intent,” says Haynes, “but it could be interpreted that way. I looked at it that way, too.”

While Gov’t Mule is by far Haynes’s main musical priority, he also spends time writing for, producing, and performing in the Allman Brothers Band. He usually plays about 50 shows a year with the southern-rock heroes, sharing the six-string duties with slide-guitar wunderkind Derek Trucks. Along with old pal Woody, Haynes first joined the ABB in 1989, at which time he was handling the bottleneck parts made famous by the legendary Duane Allman. He spent many years trading licks in the Allmans with veteran picker Dickie Betts, before Betts got the boot and the youthful Trucks came on board.

“They’re two distinctly different personalities,” relates Haynes. “I played with Dickie for 12 years, and I’ve been playing with Derek on and off since he was 11, but only on a full-time basis since 2001. Derek’s a wonderful player, and we have a really unique rapport together.”

Apart from his commitments to Gov’t Mule and the Allmans, Haynes performs and records with Phil Lesh & Friends, produces acts like the Bottle Rockets, and keeps busy with a solo career–he released an acoustic concert LP, Live at Bonnaroo, earlier this year.

He’s been called a workaholic, and doesn’t deny the label. “I guess in some respects I am,” he agrees. “But I think when you’re lucky enough to do what you love for a living, bein’ a workaholic’s not so bad.”

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