Top 10 Warren Haynes Songs
For many, Warren Haynes first came into view as guitarist for the reborn Allman Brothers Band, joining the group at the tail end of the ‘80s when they came back together. A true musician’s musician, Haynes’ love of music, both as a player and a fan, is always on display, whether he’s making music with the Allmans, Gov’t Mule, on his own as a solo artist or sitting in on someone else’s album. If the tape is rolling and Warren is there with his guitar in hand, you can be sure that something special will happen. A perennial workaholic in every sense of the term, Haynes has produced an overwhelming amount of music. We went through all of it to bring you our Top 10 Warren Haynes Songs.
Amidst an album’s worth of polished hard rock which had been molded by time spent touring with Metallica in the late-‘90s, Corrosion of Conformity stuck in ‘Stare Too Long,’ a surprising Southern rock ballad that would make Lynyrd Skynyrd themselves nod in approval. Haynes showed up and turned in one of his finest guest appearances, playing slide guitar on ‘Stare,’ an experience that he retains fond memories of to this day. “I went into the studio and they played me the song and I just really dug it.” And he says it deserves a bigger audience than it got — “I thought that it was not only a great song, but I also thought it should have been a hit.”
When looking at his own catalog, Haynes says that it’s usually some of the more moody ballads that he “tends to gravitate towards.” Coming in at No. 9 on our list of the Top 10 Warren Haynes Songs, ‘Beautifully Broken,’ which he co-wrote with Mule keyboardist Danny Louis, is one of his favorites. “You know, there’s a time when you’re writing a song that you know it’s something to be proud of, hopefully,” he says. “When I had lyrically written the second bridge in that song, after that lyric finally came to me, I knew that the song was complete and knew that I’d found a way to take it past just being where it was.”
In writing mode for the ‘Man in Motion’ album, Haynes found himself with a batch of songs that felt different. While they fit together well as a group, they didn’t feel like Gov’t Mule songs, which brought him to the realization that it was time to make a solo album, his first in 20 years. Thematically, the album celebrates Haynes’ lifelong love of soul music. The title track seems to speak lyrically to the life that Haynes has spent on the road, “moving town to town / band to band.” And for Haynes, that can sometimes mean several bands at one time.
‘Seven Turns’ brought the Allman Brothers Band back around for their first album together in nine years in 1990. As the newest addition to the lineup, Haynes remembers that ‘True Gravity,’ which he co-wrote with longtime ABB guitarist Dickey Betts, was a good example of the musical bond that was in place between Betts and Haynes had since they had been writing together and playing together a lot. But at the same time, he hadn’t worked much with the rest of the band, so it was an “exciting time and things were just growing exponentially.” He says, “I think we’re all very proud of all of that stuff we did. And then when you go back and look at it, it holds up well.”
Haynes channels a wide range of emotions in the title track from the 2000 Gov’t Mule release ‘Life Before Insanity,’ which ends the bottom half of our list of the Top 10 Warren Haynes Songs. In one moment, his guitar lines chaotically pull elements of the tone of ‘Dear Prudence,’ before shifting to a clean tone that recalls some of Eddie Van Halen’s most docile riffing. It’s a schizophrenic mix which serves the title of the song quite well. And there’s seemingly no happy ending, with things closing as they began, with Haynes emoting that it’s “hard to explain the hunger / if you don't feel it / what I really need is your breath / raining on my skin.”
In 2004, Gov’t Mule released ‘Deja Voodoo,’ the first proper “band” album to be released since founding bassist Allen Woody’s passing in 2000. Bolstered by Andy Hess on bass and Danny Louis on keyboards, the Mule sounded revitalized and the stormy ‘About To Rage’ (coming on the heels of the waffle-stomp pacing of ‘Bad Man Walking’) was a title that brought with it an accurate forecast, moving from a slow burning beginning into funnel clouds of guitar fury from Haynes. ‘Deja Voodoo’ proved that Mule 2.0 could rock just as hard as the original Mule template.
Hearing U2’s ‘Achtung Baby’ for the first time, Haynes says that he enjoyed a lot of the songs on the album, but he found himself particularly drawn to their soon-to-be classic ballad ‘One.’ He recalls that “I started thinking about how it could be done as a soul song, starting with the bridge 'love is a temple / love a higher law…' — that whole section just sounded like a bridge from a soul song.” Performed impromptu at a solo acoustic gig, he says that “it came across good, so I kept working on it and kept doing it and it’s such a beautiful song. The sign of a great song in some cases is one that you can interpret a lot of different ways.” Haynes turns in one of his emotional vocals on record with this version from the ‘Live at Bonnaroo’ release.
If you want proof that dental hygiene is important, witness this: ‘End Of The Line’ was born when Haynes walked into the dressing room where Gregg Allman and bassist Allen Woody were working on a song. Haynes came in to borrow some toothpaste and brought his guitar. He recalls that, “I was playing this riff and Gregg turned around to me and said ‘that’s it — that’s what we need right there’ and I said, ‘What?’ and he said ‘Well, we’re writing this song and that’s what we need.’
The power of the Mule is in full force on ‘Blind Man In The Dark,’ the lead track from the band’s second album ‘Dose,’ released in 1998, and No. 2 on our list of the Top 10 Warren Haynes Songs. Released as a single to rock radio, ‘Blind’ didn’t exactly gel with the format at that time, but it did provide a mighty fine example of what a rock solid unit Haynes had built with Woody and drummer Matt Abts (whose drumming leads off the stampede pacing of ‘Blind’ kickin’ hard like a mule, rather appropriately) and all three men are positively locked in from the first moment until the song’s conclusion nearly seven minutes later.
Although it would take Warren Haynes nearly 20 years from the time he wrote this song for the Allman Brothers Band to get around to dedicating a full album to his love of soul music, his affection for the genre was very evident early on in ‘Soulshine.’ Taken from the band’s 1994 ‘Where It All Begins’ album, Gregg Allman spreads copious amounts of Hammond B3 organ thickly behind modestly simplistic guitar work by Haynes. ‘Soulshine’ quickly would become one of Haynes’ most well-known and much-loved compositions, and one which pops up in the setlists for both Allman Brothers and Gov’t Mule shows.