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The Christmas Jam

Saturday

Dec 9, 2017 – 7:00 PM

87 Haywood Street
Asheville, NC 28801 Map

  • Trey Anastasio
  • The Avett Brothers
  • Ann Wilson
  • Warren Haynes
  • Blackberry Smoke
  • Gov't Mule

More Info

Trey Anastasio: Guitarist, composer, songwriter, Trey Anastasio has a long list of appropriate titles rivaled only by the list of his musical accomplishments. Co-founding the seminal improvisational rock band, Phish, in 1983, the limits to Trey's creativity seem to have no boundaries. In 2004 alone he performed his last concerts with Phish, did several festivals with his horn-driven Dectet, toured as a part of Dave Matthews and Friends and conducted a self-composed orchestral set in front of 90,000 fans at Bonnaroo.

Trey's current focus is on merging his past accomplishments with his present goals, showcasing more of his multi-faceted musical expertise.

The Avett Brothers: If you put your ear to the street, you can hear the rumble of the world in motion; people going to and from work, to school, to the grocery store. You may even hear the whisper of their living rooms, their conversation, their complaints, and if you're lucky, their laughter. If you're almost anywhere in America , you'll hear something different, something special, something you recognize but haven't heard in a long time. It is the sound of a real celebration.

It is not New Year's, and it is not a political convention. It is neither a prime time game-show, nor a music video countdown, bloated with fame and sponsorship. What you are hearing is the love for a music. It is the unbridled outcry of support for a song that sings to the heart, that dances with the soul. The jubilation is in the theaters, the bars, the music clubs, the festivals. The love is for a band.

The songs are honest: just chords with real voices singing real melodies. But, the heart and the energy with which they are sung, is really why people are talking, and why so many sing along.

They are a reality in a world of entertainment built with smoke and mirrors, and when they play, the common man can break the mirrors and blow the smoke away, so that all that's left behind is the unwavering beauty of the songs. That's the commotion, that's the celebration, and wherever The Avett Brothers are tonight, that's what you'll find.

Ann Wilson: Ann Wilson has recorded her first-ever solo effort 'Hope & Glory,' due September 11th on Zoë/ Rounder Records. The arresting vocalist branches out with a socially conscious and thought-provoking album of songs she selected to inspire the appropriately titled 'Hope & Glory.'

Produced by Ben Mink (k.d. lang, Feist), Hope & Glory features guest appearances from iconic artists Elton John, Gretchen Wilson, Alison Krauss, Rufus Wainwright, Ann’s sister Nancy Wilson and others on unique renditions of songs made famous by Led Zeppelin, Bob Dylan, John Lennon, Neil Young and more.

“Each of these songs holds a special place in my soul…At one time or another every one of them has kept me up at night to the point of exasperation and will not be banished, as I lay sleepless on my pillow. Such songs as these carry me through my life, and they are a standard to which all new music I hear and write must compare.” – Ann Wilson

With the state of our times in mind, Wilson sings the story of a fallen soldier (“Where to Now St. Peter”), recounts hardship and desperation (“Immigrant Song”) and takes an angel’s view of a battlefield (“War of Man”). Wilson ties the entire body of work together with her stirring original song entitled “Little Problems, Little Lies”, a harrowing soldier’s eye view of life on the front lines.

Warren Haynes: Warren Haynes’ long-anticipated solo album, Man In Motion (Concord Records), is a timeless collection of songs that crackle with modern vitality yet draw on his deepest roots as an artist.

The disc pumps fresh blood into the heart of soul and blues, stoked by Haynes’s Herculean prowess as both a powerhouse singer and guitarist — a reputation he’s earned as a member of three of the greatest live groups in rock history: The Allman Brothers Band, The Dead and his own Gov’t Mule.

In a sense, the vocal-driven Man In Motion is an album he’s been aching to make since he first dreamed of becoming a musician.

“Before I started playing guitar, I wanted to be a singer, right from the age of five or six,” the rock ‘n’ roll legend regales. “And what I wanted to sing was soul music. My brothers and I had just a handful of albums. First they were the ‘Best of’ collections by Sam & Dave, Wilson Pickett, James Brown, the Temptations, Aretha Franklin…and eventually albums by the three Kings of the blues, Freddie King, B.B. King and Albert King. In fact, it was hearing B.B. and Freddie that made me realize you could be a great singer and a great guitar player. So I decided to model myself after them.”

For Man In Motion, Haynes draws on his dynamic gravel-and-honey voice and stunning six-string syntax to create melodies that frame the past with the present, fusing enduring themes of love, desire and loss with bristling undeniably contemporary energy.

Tunes like Haynes’ uplifting Albert King influenced string-bender “The River’s Gonna Rise” — an anthem of hope for these tumultuous times — and the poignant narrative “A Friend To You” ring with the same straight-talking authenticity as William Bell’s Stax-label jewel “Every Day is a Holiday,” the disc’s sole cover.

“In soul and blues, the vocal is really the centerpiece,” Haynes explains. “And it’s not about irony or smoke-and-mirrors. It’s about telling real stories about everyday people in an honest way. Honesty in music trumps everything else.”

Despite Man In Motion’s sharp focus on his singing, there’s no shortage of numbers like “Sick of My Shadow,” which straddles the terrain of Haynes’ guitar universe, blending rock, soul, R&B and jazz in its introspective mix.

Fans of Haynes’ growling, distinctive signature six-string approach in Gov’t Mule and the Allman Brothers will notice a subtler — if no less adventurous — palette of guitar tones on Man in Motion.

“I was going for a kind of pre-rock sound,” Haynes explains. “These songs based in soul and blues really require cleaner tones to pay respect to the era that inspired them and to really get to the emotional heart of the matter. I used the wah-wah and a few other effects, but there’s a lot of B.B. King, Albert King and Freddie King influence on this album from a guitar standpoint.”

Although Haynes employed his Gibson signature model Les Paul Standard guitar for some numbers, a clutch of vintage Gibson semi-hollowbody instruments — ES-335 and ES-345 models from his extensive collection — account for most of the tracks, plus an archtop hollowbody D’Angelico that inspired his jazz break on “Sick of My Shadow.”

As usual, Haynes improvised his solos, playing live to two-inch tape along with the core band of fellow virtuosos that he assembled at Willie Nelson’s Pedemales Studio near Austin, where the past few Gov’t Mule CDs were also recorded.

“I wanted to record this album just like the classic records that influenced me,” he notes. “The band played together on all the songs and we avoided overdubs. It was important to catch the energy and emotion of music being made live by a group of great musicians.”

His cast of world-class players includes a trio of New Orleans R&B kingpins: bass legend George Porter, Jr. of the Meters, keyboardist-singer Ivan Neville and drummer Raymond Webber, who helped Haynes nail Man in Motion’s R&B-, blues- and soul-soaked grooves. Veteran Faces and Rolling Stones pianist Ian McLagan, folk-blues sensation Ruthie Foster and tenor saxist Ron Holloway joined them. Foster and Neville are perfect vocal foils for Haynes’ own blend of sugar and gravel, and as a threesome they conjure harmonies that sound right out of the Stax and Hi Records Memphis soul playbooks.

“For this kind of music,” Haynes adds, “that chemistry is essential. I was really fortunate. I put my wish list of musicians together and they were all available and excited about the project.” But it’s really Haynes’ hard work — his constant motion — rather than good fortune that has taken this creative dynamo to the zenith of his career.

After all, it’s been 18 years since he last entered the studio to record a solo album, but Haynes is no slacker. He has been busy. Very busy. As rock’s foremost MVP singer-guitarist, the burly native of Asheville, North Carolina has been constantly on the move and in the spotlight for the past two decades.

During that time Haynes has maintained his tenure in Gov’t Mule, the Allman Brothers Band and the Dead, and while barely catching his breath between their tours and studio sessions, he’s also performed or cut tunes with a diverse array of musicians including Phil Lesh & Friends, Bob Dylan, John Lee Hooker, Eric Clapton, Bonnie Raitt, Dave Matthews, and most recently with his longtime hero BB King.

No wonder it’s taken Haynes so long to get back into the studio to make the follow-up to his first solo disc, 1993’s Tales of Ordinary Madness. And no wonder his new album is called Man in Motion.

Haynes describes the title track as “a snapshot of someone who is evolving and in constant change, and I can certainly relate to that. I feel that musicians are students for life, so it’s important for me to always seek new experiences and throw myself curve balls, to remain inspired and challenged, and to grow. And while I’ve been thinking about getting back to another solo studio album for a long time now, I’ve had other things demanding my attention.”

In addition to his three solo discs (including 2004’s acoustic Live At Bonnaroo), seven albums with the Allman Brothers and Gov’t Mule’s 16 studio and live releases, Haynes has accumulated stacks of accolades for his efforts.

They range from Grammy wins and nominations to his ranking at number 23 on Rolling Stone’s list of “The 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time.” Haynes has played New York City’s historic Beacon Theater nearly 300 times, more than any other artist. Gov’t Mule has sold over two million song downloads from their own MuleTracks web site. And a wide range of stars including Garth Brooks, Gregg Allman, Phil Lesh, Little Milton, John Mayall, George Jones, Derek Trucks, Susan Tedeschi and Buckwheat Zydeco have recorded his songs in addition to the 25 songs he’s written for the Allman Brothers Band.

If there’s such a thing as karma, perhaps that’s a factor in Haynes’ success, since he’s also a major supporter of Habitat for Humanity, a charity that builds housing for the disadvantaged. Each year he organizes his annual “Christmas Jam” benefit for Habitat now in its 23rd year, in his hometown of Asheville, NC. Of course, Haynes is not resting on his laurels for a moment. He’ll be touring behind Man In Motion this spring and summer while Gov’t Mule is on hiatus, and then regrouping with his Mule-mates to write and rehearse songs for their ninth studio album.

“There are other projects I want to do, too,” he relates. “I’m interested in recording a singer-songwriter oriented album with more acoustic instruments, a jazzy instrumental CD and a straight-up blues record. But like Man in Motion, those albums will have to wait until the time is right.”

Blackberry Smoke: We don't pull any punches about calling this Southern rock because that's what it is," says Blackberry Smoke frontman Charlie Starr. "It's what we think new Southern rock should sound like." Starr, guitarist Paul Jackson, bassist Richard Turner and drummer Brit Turner are indeed sons of the South, but their considerable chops recall The Swanee River Boys and The Stanley Brothers as well as Lynyrd Skynyrd and The Allman Brothers.

"We love all kinds of music - our CD collection in the van is extremely diverse," Charlie continues. "You can hear a bluegrass influence on our harmonies. We all grew up listening to that kind of music, and I started singing in church, so I think a little gospel flavor filters through, too. We like to mix it up and take some chances."

Still, discerning ears will detect a strain of Bon Scott in Charlie's upper register. "Our music is probably harder driving than what you'd call classic Southern rock," he concedes, "especially in the guitar and drum sounds." In fact, this ain't no gospel, this ain't no bluegrass, this ain't no fooling around: Blackberry Smoke is balls-out rock and roll.

The response of fans to the live performances on Bad Luck Ain't No Crime, the band's debut disc, is thrilling confirmation of that. Studio tracks "Testify" and "Sanctified Woman" may be attracting the most attention at rock radio, but these rough-and-ready versions of originals "Scare The Devil" and "Muscadine" and the standard "Freeborn Man" may better capture the essence of Blackberry Smoke.

"We recorded those during the motorcycle rally in Sturgis [South Dakota], at The Full Throttle Saloon," Charlie informs. "We took an RV, parked it behind the stage and just lived there for a week. We opened for everyone who came through. It's outdoors and the weather was beautiful. There's no charge to get in and lots of booze flowing. What that audience sounded like - we couldn't have asked for better live recordings. Technically, there are some warts, but the energy was so high that we didn't care. We aren't brain surgeons - it ain't pretty sometimes, but it sure does feel good."

Even when Charlie's singing about hard times, there is joy in the music. You can't help thinking that he, Paul, Richard and Brit were born to play together.

The road to Blackberry Smoke winds through Lanett, Alabama, where Charlie was raised, LaGrange, Georgia, where he met Paul, and Atlanta, longtime stomping grounds to brothers Richard and Brit. Growing up in Lanett, a textile mill town ringed by fields of corn, peas and butterbeans, Charlie began his training as a singer before he could talk. His mother's uncle is Bluegrass Hall Of Famer Buford Abner, lead singer for the aforementioned Swanee River Boys; great uncle Merle Abner sang bass.

"My dad has played guitar and sung bluegrass my whole life," Charlie adds. "I spent a lot of years going to bluegrass festivals. Every weekend we'd drive to Virginia or Kentucky. It was a fun thing to do. When I got to be a teenager, I said, ?I don't want to play this kind of music; I want to play "Smoke On The Water."' But after a while, I think you always come back to whatever sparked your interest in music in the first place."

He vividly remembers his mother singing along to the radio, with The Rolling Stones, The Faces, The Beatles and Bob Dylan among her favorites. He notes that his own idols range more toward Hank Williams - of whom he says, "I don't think a better songwriter has ever walked the earth" - and Steve Earle, but the Bad Luck Ain't No Crime track "Normaltown" is indisputably reminiscent of the Beatles' psychedelic awakening.

Charlie recollects: "When I was growing up, we'd all sit around the piano singing, and I'd grab my dad's guitar every time someone put it down. About the time I turned six, I guess he figured he'd better get me one before I broke his."

The boy learned how to play on his own after a few lessons from Dad. He graduated to the electric guitar in his teen years. By then Charlie was getting into the Allmans, Skynyrd, Marshall Tucker, Molly Hatchet, Blackfoot and 38 Special, whose material he calls "a little more pop, riding-around-in-your-Camaro stuff."

He naturally gravitated toward other rock musicians. "Paul and I have been buddies for a long time," he says. "He's always been a great guitar player. We'd go down to Atlanta to see bands. There's a couple of late-night watering holes where musicians would convene after concerts, and that's where we got to know Brit and Richard. We kept saying we should all jam and when we finally did, there it was; the band just kind of fell together."

Blackberry Smoke's creative approach remains a collaborative one. "Sometimes I'll come in with a basic idea, just play some chords and a melody on an acoustic and a song will grow from that," Charlie explains. "But most of the time I'll write with Paul - we live within 15 minutes of each other - or we'll be in rehearsal and just start jamming on something and magic will happen."

The band members have a similarly easygoing, give-and-take personal rapport. Charlie says he knows it's a clich', but he nonetheless attests: "We're like a little family, like four brothers. We all just get along really well. We've all been in cover bands, and in every cover band there's somebody ya hate. There's nobody in this band like that ? unless I'm the guy and they haven't told me! We could never stay on the road for 40 days if we weren't laughing and having a good time. All our dads were in the service and they taught us respect for other people. Hell, Brit and Richard's dad is a retired Air Force colonel; they really walked the line."

During their travels, the Blackberry Smoke boys have headlined all over the U.S. and opened for a slew of rock acts. The band got their name from another likeminded artist, former Black Crowes singer-songwriter Chris Robinson.

Gov't Mule: AUTHENTIC ROCK TORCHBEARERS GOV'T MULE RETURN WITH EPIC, STAR-STUDDED NEW STUDIO RECORDING SHOUT!

Double album is first release in four years and features ELVIS COSTELLO, DR. JOHN, BEN HARPER, TOOTS HIBBERT, GLENN HUGHES, JIM JAMES, MYLES KENNEDY, DAVE MATTHEWS, GRACE POTTER, VINTAGE TROUBLE'S TY TAYLOR AND STEVE WINWOOD

Few bands have a reputation for making music as consistently honest, organic and daring as Gov't Mule. Now the enduring group fronted by visionary singer-guitarist Warren Haynes returns with their first album in four years - their Blue Note Records debut Shout!, a breath-taking, exploratory double-disc set to be released on September 24.

"This album puts a spotlight on the songs and the way that we interpret them, which hinges on the unique chemistry we've developed as a band," explains Haynes, who along with Mule co-founder and drummer Matt Abts, multi-instrumentalist Danny Louis and bassist Jorgen Carlsson charted Shout!'s adventurous contours.

Shout!'s second disc shines a beam on a guest list of famed interpreters Elvis Costello, Dr. John, Ben Harper, Toots Hibbert, Glenn Hughes, Jim James, Myles Kennedy, Dave Matthews, Grace Potter, Vintage Trouble's Ty Taylor and Steve Winwood, who each delivered an alternate vocal performance of one of the first disc's new Gov't Mule tunes.

"No one's done this before, which is exciting," says Haynes, "but it's even more exciting actually listening to these artists sing our songs. Their performances bring new ideas, energy and sometimes even different meanings to every number."

Plus Shout! offers some of the most extraordinary playing in Gov't Mule's rich, sonically colorful history. And the album's incredible scope ranges from the suite-like epic "Bring On The Music" to the snarling punk rock anthem "Funny Little Tragedy" to the soul-reggae testifier "Scared To Live."

The inventive and incendiary musical performances throughout both discs spring from the jazz-like philosophy and creative language the Mule's members have developed together. They're the rare rock ‘n' roll group with an improvisational heartbeat, which allows all four musicians to expand on the songs' themes in non-formulaic ways. That quality distinguishes the finest jazz, blues and rock recordings of the '50s and '60s, but is largely absent in modern music.

On Shout! it's audible from the ground up - starting with the Technicolor propulsion of the Abts-Carlsson rhythm section. Their flexible interplay in the studio and on stage, where both musicians amp up their already aggressive, freewheeling approach to providing the sonic foundation of the band, is essential to Gov't Mule's reputation as a living, breathing ensemble. Drummer Abts has the courage and the chops to extrapolate with the other band members, pushing, pulling and accenting his rhythms as each performance evolves. And while Carlsson's bass always keeps its essential snarl, he's among the few players in modern rock that varies his tone and approach to best serve each song.

Although Louis' primary role in Gov't Mule is keyboardist, his guitar playing has expanded to the point where he often plays the instrument for a third of the band's live sets. On Shout! he steps even further into the role of Haynes' six-string foil, with their contrasting styles frequently adding yet another dimension to the album.

Several numbers were cut with Haynes and Louis simultaneously on guitar, including the romantic "Captured," which shares a shimmering ebb and flow with classic Neil Young & Crazy Horse.

Louis even takes the brash, ringing fret board solo on the Clash-inspired "Funny Little Tragedy." And he steps up his contributions as a background singer, adding vocal support to five songs.

And Haynes, of course, remains one of the most formidable guitarists and vocalists of the modern era, effortlessly cross-pollinating genres and unfurling solos that broil with passion in his distinctive, signature style.

No wonder fans of the Grammy nominated band have come to expect nothing less than the virtuosity, intelligence and breadth that propels Shout!.

Here's how Blue Note Records president Don Was, who's also a Grammy winning producer and performer, sums up Gov't Mule's place in contemporary music: "The Mule holds a unique and lofty berth. They have roots that run real deep - drawing from the entire history of rock ‘n' roll going all the way back to Robert Johnson and the Delta. Yet, despite their mastery of past idioms, they have managed to rearrange those elements into a whole new thing. So while the music they make is quite contemporary, I dare say they have deeper roots than other bands that are creating new music.

"According to the Blue Note manifesto written by our founder Alfred Lion back in 1939, our label is dedicated to the recording of ‘authentic music.' I don't know how much more authentic you can be than Gov't Mule! It's an honor to release their records on the Blue Note label. On this new album, they've elevated their songwriting, playing and production values to a whole new plateau. It's gonna blow people's minds!"

Add the word "again," because Gov't Mule have been blowing minds since their eponymous 1994 debut. That album found the band boldly transfusing new blood into old-school psychedelic blues-rock at a time when the genre was largely ignored. Gov't Mule's stylistic grasp has grown inexhaustibly since.

Fighting the trend in a declining music industry, the band's fan base, too, has steadily expanded over the course of 15 studio and live releases and thousands of performances - at first in small clubs and theaters, then at halls and major international festivals.

Today, Gov't Mule have become a human encyclopedia of great American music even while adding to that cannon. And through it all Haynes has served as not only the group's captain, but as a beacon of creativity and excellence that inspires fans and fellow musicians.

Parallel to his nearly two decades in the Mule, Haynes has been the six-string mainstay and a vocalist for the Allman Brothers Band and the Dead, and performed or recorded with a diverse array of other artists. In 2011 he made his second in-studio solo album, the aptly titled Man In Motion, which paid tribute to his blues roots and found Haynes experimenting with different guitar tones and effects not traditionally associated with Gov't Mule.

Shout! came to life in a Connecticut studio where the band initially regrouped to reignite their collective flame, and ended up cutting the bulk of the album, with Haynes, his bandmates and longtime Mule collaborator Gordie Johnson producing various cuts. Three songs - the reggae-based "World Boss," the psychedelic dreamscape "Whisper In Your Soul" and the blues-rocker "Done Got Wise" - were recorded at Jorgen Carlsson's Rogers Boat Studios in California, with Carlsson and studio co-owner Steve Holroyd engineering.

Paying tribute to the band's musical heroes became part of Shout!'s creative game plan. Haynes explains that the brawny "Bring On the Music" was written to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the break-up of the classic British blues-rock band Free.

Every note of "Bring On The Music" evokes Free's memorable style - especially Haynes' channeling of the band's fiery Les Paul guitar playing of the group's leader Paul Kossoff.

Another sinewy number, "How Could You Stoop So Low," is a nod to the 40th anniversary of the release of Sly & the Family Stone's influential album Fresh and was co-written by Haynes and Louis, whose rhythm guitar riff is the song's spine. The four-piece Mule was able to recreate Sly's nine-piece sound with the addition of backing singers Alecia Chakour and Nigel Hall from Haynes' solo-project band, and Louis' heavily funky keyboard lines.

Dr. John's grizzly, incantatory turn on the alternate version of the tune was the first guest vocal recorded, although the idea of assembling a cast of great singers to color the songs differently was indirectly inspired by Haynes' friend Elvis Costello. Early in the project Haynes wrote the snarling "Funny Little Tragedy," which reminded him of Costello's early music, and called Costello to ask him about the vocal mics used for his first albums. After the conversation, Haynes started thinking about how the song would sound if Costello sang it. As a result, he couldn't get Costello's voice out of his head and began thinking about pairing other vocalists with the set's other songs.

So Haynes made a list of Shout!'s titles and his top choices for singers, and their responses were overwhelming - a tribute to Haynes' and Gov't Mule's standing among their peers.

"Everyone in the band has such a wide variety of musical points of reference that a song can start in any style - from rock to blues to funk to R&B to reggae - and end up going to a completely different place.

"On Shout! every performance of each song stands on its own, but always sounds like us," he adds. "Even if it's a part of us that most people have never heard before."

In reflection, Haynes offers that Gov't Mule's journey has been full of surprises. "There's no way I could have anticipated the way we'd grow when we started," Haynes remarks. "Everyone in Gov't Mule brings their own personality to the music, and we're always looking for opportunities to expand and excite ourselves. Shout! is proof of that, as well as an album I could never have predicted we'd make even five years ago."

In 2000, when founding bassist Allen Woody passed away, Haynes and Abts discussed the possibility of putting Gov't Mule out to pasture. Instead the band went on to become part of the tradition they had always intended to honor.

"That," says Haynes, "is something we could only have dreamed to achieve and never expected in a million years."