Gov’t Mule returns to Vail for Valentine’s Day gig |

Gov’t Mule returns to Vail for Valentine’s Day gig

Stewart Oksenhorn
Vail CO, Colorado
Government Mule phtographed in Los Angeles, CA on September 4, 2008©Jay Blakesberg/Retna LTD.
ALL | Retna LTD.

VAIL, Colorado “-Bassist Jorgen Carlsson has done plenty of studio work ” including several albums by Jim Brickman, known for his delicate, New Agey piano recordings ” to know the nature of such gigs. It’s in and out, with little emotional connection with the music, possibly even less with the artist.

“You just do it,” said Carlsson. “You don’t get involved much with the music.”

At the other end of the gigging experience ” and at the far, far other end of the musical spectrum from Brickman sessions ” is Carlsson’s latest gig, as a full-fledged member of the hard-jamming Gov’t Mule. Last year, after Andy Hess resigned from his position in the band, Carlsson was one of approximately a dozen bassists auditioned by Gov’t Mule. It was no quickie: Carlsson, who had been recommended to Mule leader Warren Haynes by a mutual musician friend, first spent a few getting-to-know-you hours in New York with the band. A few weeks later, he returned for a week of jamming and talking. When Haynes told Carlsson he had passed the audition, the bassist was impressed that he was not merely being offered a job, but that he was being looked after.

“Warren said something cool. He said, ‘We want to make sure you want to be in the band,'” said Carlsson, a 38-year-old native of Gothenburg, Sweden, who moved to the States in 1991, for one year at the Grove School of Music, and has yet to relocate from Los Angeles. “So that felt good. It felt like they weren’t just wanting me; they wanted it to be a good fit for me.”

Based on Carlsson’s early history, it seemed to be a good musical match. Carlsson grew up on the harder stuff ” Jimi Hendrix, Deep Purple, Black Sabbath and, he says with a chuckle, Kiss ” and Gov’t Mule has perhaps the hardest edge of any band that gets lumped into the jam-band category. But Carlsson points out that there was a huge gap between those ’70s-era bands and the latest generation of jamming groups. And that is doubly so with Gov’t Mule, which lately has added a huge dose of reggae to its sound, to go with the flourishes of jazz, Southern rock and blues. Carlsson had not paid much attention to where jam-oriented, soloing-heavy music had gone since the days of “Smoke on the Water.” He had never even heard of Gov’t Mule ” though he knew of Haynes, who is also a member of the Allman Brothers Band.

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“I’m basically a pop-rock musician, with rock roots,” he said from a Gov’t Mule tour stop in Lawrence, Kan. “I’m used to jamming, but not on this level,” he said. “It’s a different climate in L.A. for that whole scene. Now I’m playing reggae in an improvised situation.”

There have been some daunting moments in the job. The first was when Haynes informed Carlsson that he had to learn more than 100 songs. (That meant that former bassist Hess had to play one last Gov’t Mule tour after Carlsson had accepted the position.) Another came when Carlsson realized he was preceded not only by Hess, but by founding bassist Allen Woody, and the roster of legendary bassists ” Jack Bruce of Cream, John Entwistle of the Who, Phil Lesh of the Grateful Dead, Dave Schools of Widespread Panic, Bootsy Collins of P-Funk and Victor Wooten of the Flecktones, to name a few ” who rotated through after Allen’s death, in 2000.

For all that, the ride has been smooth. “It’s like a family, musically as well as socially,” said Carlsson, who visits Vail Saturday when the band plays a Valentines Day show at Dobson Ice Arena. Carlsson has a few dozen live shows under his belt ” enough that he is “starting to get comfortable with the language onstage,” he said. Last week, the band ” which includes drummer Matt Abts and keyboardist Danny Louis, in addition to singer-guitarist Haynes ” finished recording sessions in Austin for their next CD. Gov’t Mule had planned to record six songs with Carlsson, to go with tracks already made with Hess in the band. But Carlsson said that recording went well enough that they added several songs to the original six.

One more thing Carlsson is still getting used to is Haynes himself who, at 48, continues to astound even seasoned musicians (and fans). In addition to Gov’t Mule, in which he writes most of the material, does all the lead singing and the vast majority of the soloing, and membership in the Allman Brothers, he will tour this spring as a member of the Dead, which features surviving members of the Grateful Dead. His current recording projects include, along with the Mule CD, two albums outside the bands: one that focuses on his singer-songwriter side, and one inspired by the old-soul sound ” but featuring original material. When it comes to his new bandmate, Carlsson is just like any amazed fan.

“I’m one of them,” he said. “He’s a monster, completely out of control. His work ethic is extreme.”

What: Gov’t Mule

Where: Dobson Ice Arena, Vail

When: Saturday. Doors open at 6:30 p.m., show at 9 p.m.

Cost: $27.50 in advance and $30 at the door

More information: Advance tickets are available at,, or at the venue box office.

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