Various Artists – Warren Haynes Presents: The Benefit Concert Volume 3 & Volume 4

January 01, 1970

(Evil Teen)


Each year around this time, a couple of weeks before
Christmas, Gov’t Mule frontman Warren Haynes convenes an all-star retinue of
musical friends and associates for his annual Warren Haynes Christmas Jam, a
six-hour concert – or seven, or eight, or nine, running from 7pm until
sometimes as late/early as 4am the next morning – in Asheville, NC, with
proceeds going to the local Habitat For Humanity. Regular readers of BLURT (and
before that, Harp magazine) will
recall our ongoing coverage of the Christmas Jam, most recently the 2011
the 23rd concert to date, which featured Haynes and the
Mule plus Los Lobos, Bela Fleck, Phil Lesh & Friends and numerous other
guests. (For more about the Jam, read our 2008 article and interview with
Haynes, “20 Years of Xmas Jams.”)


The Haynes organization has also recorded and filmed each
Jam, which by now must amount to a pretty massive trove of audio and video
tapes. Based on my own Jam-attending activities, which commenced in 2002, I can
state unequivocally that there is some serious Brinks-worth-guarding gold in
them there vaults, some of which has surfaced officially in the form of four
2-CD compilations and one DVD, each also serving to raise money for Habitat. Warren Haynes Presents The Benefit Concert
Vol. 1
culled choice performances from the 1999 show and Vol. 2 tackled 2000, while the DVD
skipped ahead a few years to 2006 for what was by all accounts (mine included)
one of the greatest Christmas Jams ever, featuring the Mule, the New Orleans
Social Club, Marty Stuart, Branford Marsalis, Taj Mahal and others.


What’s at hand here is Vol.
, covering 2001 and released last year, and Vol. 4, the 2002 show, which hit stores just prior to the 2011 Jam.
Both are excellent in their own right, but if forced to tout one over the
other, I’d rate the former a “6” (out of 10 stars) and the latter a “9”, which
accounts for the 8-star rating above. The qualitative difference rests
primarily in the tracklisting and pacing, admittedly subjective judgments. Vol. 3 starts off with a stellar pair of
deep, evil blues from Alvin Youngblood Hart; Blues Traveler harpist John Popper
joins him for the second cut, a version of “Devil Got My Woman.” The rest of
Disc 1 has its moments as well, notably when Drivin’ N Cryin’ bring out
erstwhile Black Crowes guitarist Audley Freed for a blazing “Fly My Courageous”
that segues into “Smoke On the Water”; Freed’s considered something of a Christmas
Jam MVP since he’s been invited back by Haynes year after year and he’s
frequently a key particiapant in some of the best and heaviest onstage jams.
Things pick up considerably Disc 2 when, following three solid tunes from Phil
Lesh & Friends, Gov’t Mule gets about 45 minutes worth of its set that
evening reprised, of which CSN&Y’s “Almost Cut My Hair” (featuring guests
Rob Barraco, Dave Schools and Robert Randolph) and a finale of “Rockin’ In the
Free World” (Barraco, Schools, Freed and Kevn Kinney joining in) do a pretty good
job of tearing the roof off the Asheville Civic Center.


Hold that thought: one of my abiding memories of the 2002
Christmas Jam was when Robert Randolph & the Family Band unleashed a
version of the Slim Harpo classic “Shake Your Hips”; with Haynes and Mule
keyboardist Danny Louis also on board, sacred steel maestro Randolph took
things higher… and higher… and – quite literally, when he jumped up on his
chair and danced madly – higher, to the amazement and delight of the audience,
which responded (wildly, passionately) in kind. Moments like that are, in a
sense, par for the course at Christmas Jams, but at the same time, you never
know exactly when they are gonna happen. So when they do, they tend to be the kind of jaw-dropping,
chicken-skin-inducing, tell-the-grandchildren stuff any true aficionado of live
music exists for.


In addition to that one, there are several others almost as powerful on Vol. 4, in fact: John Hiatt and the
Goners, along with Haynes, snaking through “Memphis in the Meantime,” and a
couple of Grateful Dead-centric segments (an alternately luminous/woozy and
rocking/intense “Dark Star Jam>Mexico” from Dead acolytes and inheritors
moe.; plus former GD guitarist Bob Weir capping a Dead trifecta with a stomping,
exuberant “The Other One”). But then there’s the Gov’t Mule set, which includes
one of the most visceral versions of “Sco-Mule” I’ve ever seen them do, along
with an elegant, anthemic “Simple Man”; both tunes boast a slew of guests
crowding the stage, including none other an actual Lynyrd Skynyrd member,
drummer Artimus Pyle. Again, one of those moments to write home about.


Each year, when filing my report on the just-finished Haynes
Jam, I tend to wrap up the review with some variation of, “and then, somewhere
around 3a.m., we all staggered out into the December night cold, exhausted but
still riding a wave of adrenalin…” Yeah, I know… blah blah blah. Reviewer
hyperbole. But it’s true. The Benefit
series can’t possibly reproduce that experience, but as a solid
taster of what you can get by
attending – and certainly as a crucial souvenir and memory-jogger for anyone
who actually did attend the concerts being documented on these discs – it does
a pretty doggone good job. Looking forward to the next volume. And the next.
And the next…


DOWNLOAD: Vol. 3: “Devil Got My Woman” (Alvin
Youngblood Hart & John Popper), “Fly Me Courageous” (Drivin’ N Cryin’),
“Almost Cut My Hair” (Gov’t Mule); Vol. 4:
“Shake Your Hips” (Robert Randolph), “The Other One” (Bob Weir & Friends),
“Sco-Mule” (Gov’t Mule), “Simple Man” (Gov’t Mule). FRED MILLS

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