The last time guitarist Warren Haynes came through Spokane, in 2014, he was performing with his revered, long-running band Gov’t Mule. Now he’s returning to the Bing Crosby Theater on a solo tour, but Haynes’ upcoming show isn’t going to be the kind of quiet, reserved acoustic set you might be expecting.
“It’s different from probably anything I’ve ever done, but we’re having a blast,” Haynes said. “It’s a very high energy sort of show.”
Haynes’ current six-piece band includes fiddle, mandolin, banjo and upright bass, and his new sound blends bluegrass and country flavors with the jam rock he’s so closely associated with. The ensemble’s chemistry was already partly established before they hit the road: Haynes’ current drummer is his frequent collaborator Jeff Sipe, and he pulled his banjo, fiddle and bass players from a Nashville-based folk three-piece called ChessBoxer.
“This band has got a really unique chemistry,” Haynes said. “It’s fun to watch it growing all the time.”
Haynes is currently touring to promote his most recent album, “Ashes and Dust,” which is the third record he’s released as a solo artist. It’s a collection of 13 bluesy, folky songs that Haynes says he has been stockpiling for some time.
“The newest ones are from within the last two or three years, but some of the songs are over 20 years old. And everywhere in between,” Haynes said. “These are songs that were all written on acoustic guitar. I wanted to record them in a way that was very performance oriented but that still captured the original thought process that went into writing the songs.”
Haynes recorded the album using New Jersey-based roots group Railroad Earth as his backing band, and the sound is closer to regional folk, bluegrass and Americana than Haynes’ output with Gov’t Mule.
“This is the first record I’ve made with this sort of Appalachian instrumentation. It’s new to my audience as far as what they expect from me, but this is something I’ve done my entire life,” Haynes said. “I grew up in the mountains of North Carolina where bluegrass and folk music are extremely prevalent, and I was being influenced by and surrounded by that music as a child. … Making this record and exploring this music on tour is a way of taking that aspect of what I do and taking it full circle.”
Shifting between musical styles comes easily for Haynes. His work with both Railroad Earth and the so-called Ashes and Dust Band are just two of his many side projects – he frequently performs with the Allman Brothers Band and has played with various iterations of the Grateful Dead – and he says he thrives on the variety.
“It’s a welcome challenge, and a very necessary challenge,” Haynes said. “It’s very important to me to continually do something different, to keep from getting stagnated doing the same thing all the time. … I tend to keep the repertoires separate from one project to another. There’s a handful of songs that overlap, but for the most part, they’re completely different set lists.”
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