The Georgia Bootleg Box
The Georgia Bootleg Box is the first entry in Gov't Mule's official bootleg series on Evil Teen. This documents the original trio lineup of Warren Haynes, Matt Abts, and the late Allen Woody during a three-night springtime run in Georgia in 1996 -- Athens on April 11, Atlanta's Roxy on the 12th, and the Elizabeth Reed Music Hall in Macon on the 13th. This set's six discs contain over seven hours of music. Gov't Mule had been playing live for over three years at the time these shows took place. They had established not just their trademark loud and proud brand of gritty blues-rock and improvisation, but had gelled as a unit who could communicate with one another without a lot of interference. 1996 was a pivotal year, and what's documented here reveals this in spades. Despite the similarity in the set lists each night, the performances are often quite distinct from one another -- in terms of spontaneity and musicality, not quality. All are exceptional. These were not workmanlike gigs. Check the three different reads of the then-new "Game Face," which all commence exactly the same way yet spiral off in different directions. The metallic blues of "Mother Earth" may be a basic 12-bar, but it reveals the depth of communication between Woody's fat-bottom, fluid bass playing and Abts' drumming. It's so intuitive it allows Haynes an elastic freedom -- he can play at his bandmembers but also move far afield without worrying about the groove being fluid and in the pocket -- and sometimes, as on "Blind Man in the Dark," which opens each night, he travels great distances. There are a number of extra treats here as well. Derek Trucks joins the band's encores in Atlanta and Athens, while blues hero Tinsley Ellis appears on the Macon date. Some of the covers are true highlights as well, including Blind Faith's "Presence of the Lord," Steppenwolf's "Don't Step On the Grass, Sam" (Atlanta), and an amazing cover of Little Feat's "Spanish Moon" with Trucks on slide. Given its sheer volume, The Georgia Bootleg Box is for the hardcore Mule fan to be sure. That said, this behemoth also reveals in intricate detail what a hungry power trio playing at its very best is capable of.