Music News & Reviews

Critic's picks: Gov't Mule, 'Shout!,' and North Mississippi Allstars, 'World Boogie Is Coming'

"World boss is coming," Warren Haynes asserts as Gov't Mule's new album, Shout!, shoots to life. The music harnesses a dense, sweaty groove that sounds like Stevie Ray Vaughan in his prime. But the prideful guitar lead is in keeping with the mesh of dark blues and Southern-fried psychedelia that always has been at the heart of the band's best tunes.

Brothers Luther and Cody Dickinson, on the other hand, evoke an eerily similar muse in the title of the North Mississippi Allstars' new recording, World Boogie Is Coming.

Listen to these fine albums side by side, and you will discover just how like-minded their source material is even though their resulting music is often radically different.

Shout! is a feast of a blues-jam album — a 75-minute adventure that has Haynes and Mule mainstay Matt Abts expanding on a guitar-savvy sound that, engaging as it has always been, used to paint them into a stylistic corner. Here, the band's current quartet lineup offers us Whisper in Your Soul (an enticing slo-mo romp that recalls Cream at its nastiest), Captured (a slow and steady blues that bears more than a passing resemblance to Pink Floyd) and Stoop So Low (a beefy serving of churchy funk that does a wonderful about-face into revivalistic gospel and soul).

That doesn't even touch on the Sly & Robbie-flavored dub of Scared to Live and the after-hours cool percolating within When the World Gets Small.

But that's just half the fun. Shout! boasts a second disc of the album's 11 songs with a reshuffled running order. These alternative versions add guest artists to varying effect. Reggae star Toots Hibbert is a natural fit for Scared to Live, and the world-weary singing of Steve Winwood gives When the World Gets Small a sleek twilight hue that recalls his '70s records with Traffic. For the most part, though, the guests don't pack the same vocal grit and depth that Haynes injects into the first disc. In short, the Mule can shout just fine on its own.

World Boogie Is Coming mines earthier tradition than Shout! Still, the leaner blues exercises more than once recall Gov't Mule's bluesier tendencies.

There is a shorter guest list here. But the Dickinsons definitely make the most of what they have — including Robert Plant (with whom they toured a few years back) blowing wicked harmonica through the ghostly album-opening instrumental JR and the subsequent gut-bucket groove of Goat Meat ("it ain't fit to eat").

Dickinson originals rotate with tunes by such Allstars' inspirations as Junior Kimbrough, RL Burnside and Otha Turner. The result is a blues and boogie groove stew that couldn't be more worldly.