The original leaders of Gov't Mule, Warren Haynes and Allen Woody, were well known to Allman Brothers fans for their stint in Southern rock's most famous native sons. In 1989, Haynes became the second replacement for Duane Allman, providing a good foil for Gregg Allman and Dickey Betts on guitar and vocals; Woody filled out the Allman sound on bass. Five years after their debut, the duo joined drummer Matt Abts in the side project Gov't Mule, a band in which the Allman Brothers' influence was apparent but complicated with the psychedelic, bluesy power trio feel of Cream.
Gov't Mule debuted in 1995 with a self-titled album on Capricorn Records, followed by the stellar concert date Live at Roseland Ballroom. The studio follow-up, Dose, appeared in early 1998; another concert set, Live...With a Little Help from Our Friends, followed a year later, with the complete show appearing as a four-disc limited-edition set. A new studio effort, Life Before Insanity, appeared in early 2000. A vital member of the band was lost, however, on August 26, 2000, when Woody was found dead in a hotel room in New York City. The band had been preparing to record its next album, and after a time, Gov't Mule finally decided to carry on with the project, this time with guest bassists ranging from Flea to Bootsy Collins. The two-volume Deep End series for ATO Records resulted. Phish bassist Mike Gordon also got involved in the project, filming the recording of the albums for a planned documentary. In mid-September 2001, the group hit the road for a six-week tour in support of Deep End, Vol. 1; Oteil Burbridge filled in as bassist for most of the dates.
The second volume of Live...With a Little Help from Our Friends appeared in 2002 and the Deepest End: Live in Concert CD and DVD in 2003. One year later saw the release of Déjà Voodoo, Gov't Mule's first studio effort since Woody's death. It featured his official replacement, bassist Andy Hess, as well as new keyboardist Danny Louis. The same lineup released High & Mighty in 2006. The two-volume Benefit Concert series followed in 2007. In 2009, Gov't Mule issued By a Thread, their first studio album in three years. Hess was replaced by bassist Jorgen Carlsson, and the album featured a guest appearance by ZZ Top guitarist Billy Gibbons. In 2010, the Evil Teen imprint issued Mulennium, a three-disc package that commemorated Gov't Mule's complete 1999 New Year's Eve concert at Atlanta's historic Roxy Theatre with the band's original lineup. The concert also included guest appearances by the Black Crowes, Little Milton, and Audley Freed.
After an extended recording break in which Haynes recorded his first solo album, Gov't Mule returned to the studio. Shout was issued in September of 2013. It contained 11 new songs, and was accompanied by a bonus disc that featured a host of guest vocalists (including Toots Hibbert, Jim James, Dr. John, Steve Winwood, and Elvis Costello) fronting the band on different versions of the same tracks. In 2014, Haynes and Abts began to commemorate the band's 20th anniversary with a series of archival recordings. The first, Dark Side of the Mule, featured 90 minutes of Pink Floyd covers and three hours of music and video recorded on Halloween 2008 at the Orpheum Theatre in Boston, Massachusetts. It appeared late in 2014 and was followed by Sco-Mule, a set compiled from two in-the-vault recordings of a 1999 live date with guest jazz guitarist John Scofield. In the spring of 2015, the band released Dub Side of the Mule, a document of their fabled New Year's Eve 2006 performance at the Beacon Theater in New York. The multiple-disc set included an hour-long reggae set with Toots Hibbert, and guest appearances from Gregg Allman and John Popper. ~ John Bush and Thom Jurek