Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Album Review: Warren Haynes- Ashes and Dust

Warren Haynes
Ashes and Dust
**** out of *****
One of the hardest working singer songwriters out there is Warren Haynes, who has played with a list of world class caliber musicians, from his former Allman Brothers Band stint, to the day job of Gov't Mule to his constant appearances on the Jamband scene. Ashes and Dust is only the third album named after the man proper and comes on the heels of 2011 soul influenced Man In Motion.  

This time out Warren went for a Americana touch recruiting the roots band Railroad Earth to provide backing instrumentation and it becomes immediately clear that this pairing is perfect for the project. The strings are crisp, the lead guitar fits into the fold rather then trying to outshine it, and all sounds come alive through vibrant production. Ashes & Dust was self produced by Haynes and he worked with sound engineer Jim Scott.

The album opens with clear and strong violins for "Is It Me Or You" with Haynes taking an electric slide solo that meshes into the songs break up story. The singers jam roots are brought up in "Coal Tattoo" in which playing in the Angel Band is discussed while "Blue Madiens Tale" stretches out like an acoustic Grateful Dead number.

Fans of Warren's other well known act will gravitate towards "Company Man" with it's Allmans vibe but if anything this tune feels more like an outlier with it's more muscular feel. Tracks like the rollicking "Beat Down The Dust" or the extended "Spots Of Time" (with it's "Help On The Way" nod) roll easier for the players as the songs are tight yet the music free to wander if need be.

"Wanderlust" enters the heavens on Warren's six strings while the run through of Fleetwood Mac's "Gold Dust Woman" (a duet with Grace Potter) takes on an eerie foreboding thanks to Railroad Earths picking and Haynes guitar lines; an affecting cover.  

Haynes has always been a world class singer and guitar player, however at times his lyrics and writing has dipped into cliche or fell flat. This could be from over extension as he wrote tons of songs for all of his different outfits, but the tracks on Ashes and Dust have been accumulating for years. Now they all come together with an acoustic foundation feeling cohesive, deep, nuanced and heartfelt from Haynes.

A track that put that into focus is "New Years Eve" where in the past Warren would have trimmed words he sang or phrases to fit the meter and phrasing, here he opens his heart and lets the words overflow the bars, delivering more passion and resonance with his singing to a lost friendship. That bit of humanity along with the delicate balancing act between Railroad Earth's roots and Haynes polish makes Ashes and Dust a soaring success.        
Super impressed with this disk. We have always loved Warren but more as a performer then song writer, this disk puts his songwriting creditably to the forefront. Railroad Earth deserve credit as well. A really great roots-Americana release. It's a good week for that.

Support the artist here, buy the album here, peep some video below:

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