Stoned Side Of The Mule – Gov’t – (Reviewed by Ian O’Regan)

stonedmuleSo you know how it is. You’ve found yourself accidentally watching Masterchef one evening, and you start to get into the spirit of the thing, egging on one contestant or another, sniggering at the guy who puts fruit with fish, and applauding inwardly when the chocolate fondant actually turns out to be gooey in the middle. And then you start to think that there’s no reason you can’t do that too. You dig out the wife’s old Delia cookbook, and then you order the new Masterchef Kitchen Bible (delivered in plain packaging, obvs), and you start to experiment with nutmeg and cardamom (who knew?) and star anise. It’s a slippery slope….

Before you know where you are, you’re thinking to yourself “that Heston Bloomingdale bloke is a bit clever, innit?” and wondering whether you can get some of that liquid nitrogen off Amazon in time for next weekend’s bbq!!

And then one evening, maybe after the weekly 5-a-side, or after a particularly gruelling Assassins Creed sesh with your mates, you drop into a local diner for a pint and a snack, and the waitress delivers to your table a chunk of steak – no frills or glamour, no bells or whistles, no foams or jus or purees – just food that tastes great and reminds you that eating is simply about (1) staying alive and (2) enjoying life with your friends and family.

Now steak is a simple thing, but there are so many ways to get it wrong, and even more ways to get it right. It seems so basic, and indeed, there’s nothing quite as basic as the unadulterated indulgence of a great steak. But as simple and straightforward as it looks on the plate, you know that getting it just right, just the way you like it, is anything but simple. It’s a very complicated and sophisticated thing. And it’s all the more enjoyable for the fact that the chef has kept all that complexity hidden, and delivered to you a fundamental life experience in what looks for all the world to be the most basic format ever.

And so it is with Gov’t Mule. After months and months of new music, trawling every corner of the live and on-line scene, looking for newer and better and funkier and innovativer and differenter…… I threw Stoned Side Of The Mule onto the car stereo, and within 30 seconds, my right elbow has found its way to the window sill, I’m doing that thumb-and-index-finger steering thing, my shades are on, my head is bobbing to the groove, and dammit, even at 7am on the M4, I’m Looking Good!!

It’s all so simple really – killer guitars, catchy lyrics and melodies, a down-home-southern-rock groove that won’t let go, and a rhythm section that’s so tight there’s absolutely no chance of escape. And suddenly, I’m right back where I started all those years ago, with Skynyrd, and Lowell George, and the Allman Brothers and Bob Seger and 38 Special…… It may not be the reason why I got into music, but it sure as eggs is the reason I wanted to be in a band!

All the tracks are covers of Rolling Stones classics, but Mule have made them their own rather than slavishly sticking to every note of the originals. (It’s a companion to their Pink Floyd set, “Dark Side Of The Mule” – just in case the album name needs explaining.) It’s a live album, so there are some spots that might fall a bit shy of the levels of energy you’d expect from a live rock gig (Paint It Black is definitely one of those), but that just proves that you’re getting the actual gig experience, without heavy post-production and without apology. And when the cd spins back to track 1, there’s no reason in the world not to let it go round all over again….

So there you have it. Gov’t Mule Stoned Side Of The Mule – a really well cooked rib-eye steak.

And chips.

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About Dave Franklin

Musician, scribbler, historian, gnostic, seeker of enlightenment, asker of the wrong questions, delver into the lost archives, fugitive from the law of averages, blogger, quantum spanner, left footed traveller, music journalist, zenarchist, freelance writer, reviewer and gemini. People have woken up to worse.
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