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Soundbite

Our critics' picks in new releases

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You may not have thought that Southern rock needed saving, but that doesn't mean that Gov't Mule isn't going to try and take it to the Promised Land. They're bluesy in a mid-'60s drug-drenched, gospel sort of way. But unlike other blues revivalists--such as Jon Spencer Blues Explosion--who like to let the spirit possess them, Gov't Mule's blues testimony is sweet and low and respectful. For them, feeling the spirit never gets in the way of a perfectly soulful slide lick or the rhythm section's precision rumbling. But read through singer-guitarist (and North Carolina native) Warren Haynes' lyrics, all full of desperation and hope for redemption, and you know that no matter how cool they play it, they're feeling it just as bad as the wildest blues madman.

Life Before Insanity is the group's third studio album; their fifth total if you count their two live albums. They have a reputation as a relentless live act--happy to jam for hours with a host of guest players on a series of spontaneous covers--and that freewheeling energy translates unusually well to their CDs. Doubtless that's a holdover from Haynes' and bass player Allen Woody's days in the Allman Brothers. They relinquish a bit of the jamminess on this CD, choosing instead to go in a more solid rocking direction. It shouldn't lose them any fans, but should set them further apart from a host of inferior Allmans-and Dead-influenced jam bands currently making the scene. The CD's first single, "Bad Little Doggie," with its wicked slide and ZZ Top-like gruffness, is a perfect example. Considering how often WRDU plays "La Grange" or "Just Got Paid," if this song doesn't become a classic rock hit then there's truly no justice in this world.

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