Gov't Mule's Peace... Like A River: no room for noodling, but the pleasures run deep

Warren Haynes & Co and their various friends continue to kick out the jams on 13th album Peace... Like a River

Gov't Mule: Peace... Like A River album art
(Image: © Fantasy Records)

You can trust Louder Our experienced team has worked for some of the biggest brands in music. From testing headphones to reviewing albums, our experts aim to create reviews you can trust. Find out more about how we review.

As it similarly affected so many artists, the pandemic lockdown temporarily curtailed Gov't Mule's gigging schedule, a grievous blow for the kings of the jam band scene. So they decided to put some serious effort into recording and checked into the Power Station in New England for an extended stay. 

Within a week they had decided to make two unrelated albums, and set up in two rooms, each with its own equipment and instruments. They then proceeded to switch between the two at will. Heavy Load Blues was released in 2021 and does pretty much what the title suggests. Now comes Peace... Like A River, which is a song-based collection and harks back to their 2017 release Revolution Come... Revolution Go, which they started recording the day Donald Trump was elected President, leaving them shocked and stunned.

There's nothing so momentous gnawing at them this time around, except perhaps the sense that life goes on, so they've focused on the construction and arrangements of the songs. The result is the most varied album that Gov't Mule have made, and certainly the most concise. There is no room for noodling, even when the tracks go over the seven-minute mark.

Obviously there are riffs – where would Gov't Mule be without them? – but more thought has gone into how the song will develop around them. The guitar riff on the opening Same As It Ever Was is perhaps the most melodic that Warren Haynes has come up with, coupled with a sublime descending bass line from Jorgen Carlsson. It expands into a Yes-style prog sequence with keyboards and drums piling in to create a glorious cacophony.

Shake Our Way Out is propelled by a thunderous riff and a wicked sense of humour that involves picking someone up in a bar who has covid, and there on the chorus is the familiar cackle of ZZ Top's Billy Gibbons, the right man for this particular job. It's the first of a number of guest appearances, all of whom add value. 

Ivan Neville and Ruthie Foster bring their contrasting but well-blended soulful vocals to Dreaming Out Loud, Billy Bob Thornton's low growl gives The Rover Only Rows One Way its character, along with Haynes's wah-wah guitar, and Haynes's anguished vocals over a slow bass riff on Just Across The River are perfectly complimented by the soulful interpretations of rising singer Celisse. And just like the river, the pleasures on this album run deep.

Hugh Fielder

Hugh Fielder has been writing about music for 47 years. Actually 58 if you include the essay he wrote about the Rolling Stones in exchange for taking time off school to see them at the Ipswich Gaumont in 1964. He was news editor of Sounds magazine from 1975 to 1992 and editor of Tower Records Top magazine from 1992 to 2001. Since then he has been freelance. He has interviewed the great, the good and the not so good and written books about some of them. His favourite possession is a piece of columnar basalt he brought back from Iceland.