The Eternal Circle
In a career spanning well over 40 years American Warren Haynes (6 April, 1960) has played his Gibson guitars - among them a Les Paul '58 Reissue, Firebird and ES-335 - and sang with stars of the calibre of Grateful Dead, Peter Frampton, Derek Trucks Band, the Dave Matthews Band, and Walter Trout, and along the way produced an incredible amount of music across many different genres.
Haynes began with The Nighthawks and David Allan Coe, but his career really went stratospheric when, in 1987, Dickey Betts called him to sing on a studio album, which led to him becoming Betts’ guitarist. In 1989, The Allman Brothers Band decided to reunite, and Betts recruited Haynes to join the band.
Here are Guitars Exchange’s pick of Haynes’ best songs.
Warren Haynes has had a lifelong love of soul music but Soulshine, which he wrote in his youth, finally found its moment on The Allman Brothers album Where It All Begins in 1994. Haynes added his guitar magic to Gregg Allman’s exquisite runs on his Hammond organ and in doing so turned this fan favourite into a live gig staple.
Haynes’ stature as a musician shines on one of his acoustic versions of the song on Youtube where he finds a beautiful tone on his Martin acoustic while singing about the bittersweet experience of life. As one commentator said: “If you ever find yourself asking why God allows both good and bad in this world, perhaps here is your answer. Without the bad there would be no blues, nor music like this.”
In 1994, Haynes and Allen Woody formed Gov't Mule as a side project to The Allman Brothers Band, with Matt Abts, Danny Louis and Jorgen Carlsson joining later. The group have since released over 20 albums, several of which seek to capture the magic of their live performances.
Haynes co-wrote the wonderfully laid-back moody ballad Beautifully Broken with Gov’t Mule keyboardist Louis, and released it on The Deep End, Volume 1 (2001). “You know, there’s a time when you’re writing a song that you know it’s something to be proud of," he said. "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.” The tune is one of Haynes’ personal favourites and one of ours too. “She’s so beautifully broken, Shaped by the wind, Dangerously twisted, Here I go again, Here I go again,” he sings, and you can hear that it comes from the heart.
Life Before Insanity
This track, the product of another Haynes and Louis collaboration, and taken from the 2000 album of the same name, starts with a dark ominous sound that travels all over the place as the song builds. I hear elements of Pearl Jam and Eddie Van Halen in it, along with many other influences. “Yesterday's anger is the sadness of today, Our lives were filled with summer and laughter, Now our smiles are grey,” Haynes laments in the lyrics.
Blind Man In The Dark
This track was the lead single from 1998’s Dose. Kicking off with a powerful beat from Abts the track highlights the strong symbiotic bond shared by the three band members. On a similar theme, another standout Haynes’ collaboration, this time with Susan Tedeschi, Derek Trucks and Booker T., on 27 February, 2012, during a show at the White House, is the track I'd Rather Go Blind. Haynes shines, but it is a wonderfully passionate performance from all on stage.
Can’t You See
The live version of this song at Blue Hills Bank Pavilion on 13 August 2014 is simply fantastic. Haynes lets rip wth a lovely solo at 2’ 20” before engaging in a long and glorious guitar jam with Charlie Starr from around the five minute mark.
Stare Too Long
The southern rock ballad Stare Too Long came from Corrosion of Conformity’s 2000 album Volume Dealer, and featured a superb performance by Haynes on slide guitar. “I went into the studio and they played me the song and I just really dug it,” he says. “I thought that it was not only a great song, but I also thought it should have been a hit.”
Haynes has also been pivotal on many cover tracks that are available in our video selection; of which we have selected three by the mega-bands Pink Floyd, Lynyrd Skynyrd and Fleetwood Mac:
Wish You Were Here
Haynes and Louis covered Pink Floyd’s Wish You Were on 8 November, 2020 at South Farms in Morris, Connecticut, before later seguing into Comfortably Numb; but it is the former version that brings a tear to the eye.
The duo also combined to do a wonderful cover of Lynyrd Skynyrd's classic song, Simple Man, in February 2019. Haynes is in fine voice but when he steps forward to produce a solo at around six minutes, the song becomes sublime.
Gold Dust Woman
Haynes covered this Fleetwood Mac hit during Mountain Jam VI at Hunter Mountain, New York, on 4 June 2010. His strong vocal range combines perfectly with that of Grace Potter, before he produces a restrained and heartwrenching solo at around the four minute mark.
Will The Circle Be Unbroken
We finish this ‘eternal circle’ with a tribute to Gregg Allman at the Fox Theater in Atlanta, Georgia, on 10 January 2014, as Haynes is joined on stage by Jackson Browne, John Hiatt, Devon Allman, Susan Tedeschi, and Derek Trucks, among many others, in this emotive and moving sing-a-long.