By Steve Weinstein
By Bryan Bierman
By Lindsey Rhoades
By Chaz Kangas
By Ben Westhoff and Sarah Purkrabek
By Jena Ardell
By Jesse Sendejas Jr.
By Katherine Turman
Though he deals in decisive-sounding direct address, former David Allen a-Coe-not-so-lyte (and accompanist) Haynes keeps obsessively reapproaching his subjects, shielded at times by jaggedly juxtaposed time signatures, those Thorazine tricklers, and/or tilting lanterns of vocal implication (a bit like Korn's Jonathan Davisor Fiona Apple). Even in the leadfooted moments (worth the weight for the best songs on GM's latest, Life Before Insanity), the earth's rumbling hungrily, shifting under him. (Volcano vs. Plate theory? The battle continues!) Maybe everything's a jam. Warren's life sure is.
What really makes all this work is the way Matt Abts's drums and the bass of Allen Woody (not the guy who married his daughter) rattle Warren's ax past (or, if necessary, through) the Solemn Bog of Eternalist Solos. On the recently expanded edition of Live, P-Funk keyboarder Bernie Worrell helps them shift the dancing-in-yo'-face "Mule" theme overland toward Maggot Brain-era Dee-troit (old Murder City). Bernie and young Derek Trucks are mission-accomplices, provoking Robert Johnson's "32-20 Blues" to preach in slide-guitar tongues, midway through the Nevilles' French Quarter (new Murder City). It's the kind of work-release that makes the Dead's sporty skeleton mascot look a tad scrawny.
The Mules sometimes submit their smoldering Cream-Hendrix-Allmans-Monk-Sabbath bulk to a Free-Bad Co.-style restraining order. Yet how often they then gamble on stretching out of one sense of grace, into the higher! It doesn't always work. But "Cortez the Killer" 's generations fall like rain past "Sad and Blue as You," which lives in a tear that never falls. Johnny Neel's Hammond B-3 organ sprinkles Insanity's "Fallen Down" with impervious-to-the-agony whiskeynotes. And Dose's cover of Blind Willie Johnson's "John the Revelator" ends, not with judgement-rock thunder . . . just Warren's banjo hopping along past guitar moans, quietly asking, "What's next? What's next?"
Meanwhile, back at Help Us Get High, Jiggle the Handle (!?) jump right past moe.'s buildup/setup, and their cornball climax, yet retain some of the reedy Garcia-tone moe. used, vulnerability right in the midst of a bull's-eye. Boud Deun's "Lincoln" sets us free to find a new illusion with a tight, warm, fully packed electric violin, which Ominous Seapods should try to measure (up to), judging by their preeny tourist-bait "Jet Smooth Ride' (ditto art-wankers Hosemobile). Schleigo's got the (ever-) new illusion: wheelin' 'round with your Baby, in winter Sunday sunlight (Cadillac'd by keyboard). Touchingly titled "Biscuits" (in the oven?).
Grand Pillsbury Bake-off finale: "Lil' Betty Boop's been thinkin it ohvaah," and think it through with her if you dare, while Disco Biscuits are chasing this American Beeootay around something like Grauman's Chinese Theatre, with a Phantom of the Opera organ, decadent disco hi-hats bouncing on each other, and guitars playing those spermatozoon wraiths swooping around Betty in Cab Calloway's 1930s cartoon of "Minnie the Moocher." Holy Smokes, even if she was a low-down hoochie-coocher, Biscuits jam the hard way in the direction of "There's No Place Like Home," and I don't mean like Toto, Dorothy. All 'cause barefootin' Betty kicked that gong around? But you kick it too, guys (compliment)!