Warren Haynes Delivers Brilliant Album ‘Ashes and Dust’ — Exclusive Interview

by Laura B. Whitmore
Posted Jul 15, 2015 at 12:45am

When I think of Warren Haynes, singer/songwriter is not what comes to mind.

Until now that is. Because surprisingly, Haynes is not just a killer guitarist, he can write and deliver a mean story-telling song as well. Known for his wicked guitar prowess in bands like the Allman Brothers and Gov’t Mule, Haynes takes a new turn this time.

That’s all evidenced in his new album, Ashes and Dust, set for release July 24, 2015 on Concord Records.

In this collection of superbly written and recorded songs, Haynes taps Railroad Earth as his performance partners and brings in a few special guests like Grace Potter, Shawn Colvin, Marc Quinones and more.

Haynes’ gravelly voice seems appropriate for the serious nature of the subject matter, with a variety of stringed instruments, and, of course, guitar punctuating throughout. The result is simply wonderful.

Gorgeously layered and skillfully delivered, this project is so superbly written and crafted, I have no hesitation in labeling it my favorite album to date of 2015.

I was delighted to speak to Haynes about the Ashes and Dust

Can you share some insight on how this new direction for you came together?

I’ve been writing songs like this my entire life, and accumulating them through the years. Some of these songs I’ve wanted to record for a long time, but I just didn’t have a reason. I feel like some of these songs just didn’t have a home. You know, they didn’t necessarily fit into the Allman Brothers or into Gov’t Mule. So somewhere around seven years ago I started thinking about making this kind of record.

You know, a lot of the songs are new, but some of them go back 10 or even 20 years. One’s even older than that! The song, “Is It Me Or You” is the oldest song. And then there are songs like “Blue Maiden’s Tale” and “Word On The Wind” that are brand new, and several in between.

So you’ve been thinking about it for a long time, then! Why is this the right time now?

You know it was probably the right time then. I was going to make a record about seven years ago with Levon Helm and Leon Russell and a bass player named T-Bone Wolk. And then T-Bone passed away and then Levon passed away and I thought, well, this record is disintegrating.

So I turned around and made Man in Motion, my soul meets blues solo record, because I already had a lot of songs in that direction as well. So I put this on the back burner and continued to write more songs. Probably a lot of these songs would have been on that record.

But I also recorded almost 30 songs during these sessions, so there’s enough material for at least one and maybe two more albums. And I’m gonna continue that process. I have another five or so songs that I want to add.

I feel like the album is nicely balanced as far as instrumentation. You do inject some wonderful guitar and string parts, but it’s not overbearing. Did you have to hold yourself back?

I wanted it to be a singer/songwriter record first and foremost, and then I wanted to play as much guitar as possible when it seemed appropriate. I’m just playing what the song needs, and I think that’s enough. And I do think there’s a nice balance between songs that have some nice improvisation and some that are just telling the story.

I was intentionally catering my sound to Railroad Earth’s sound. I tried to pick guitar tones that I felt would work with the fiddle and the banjo, the mandolin, the upright bass and stuff, so I wasn’t relying on any of my go-to sounds. It kind of forced me to play differently.

Listen now to “Spots of Time”

Can you share some of the guitars you used on the album?

I think probably the guitar I used the most is my D’Angelico New Yorker. It’s a hollowbody jazz guitar that has a cleaner sound that seems to work with the more Celtic instrumentation, but also with the more classical side of what the band does. It just seems to fit in. A song like “Stranded In Self Pity” is a good example. That song has a Stephane Grappelli, Django Rheinhardt sound going on.

But then there are a lot of times I’m just playing that guitar as a rhythm guitar, because it’s not quite electric and it’s not quite acoustic.

And then I ended up playing a lot of slide guitar, which is mostly on my Les Paul, but with small amps. Little combos. And that seems to fit the storytelling aspects of the songs well, and the slide playing is coming from more of a lap steel/pedal steel sort of direction, more so than blues.

And then I played my ’61 335 on some of the stuff. And there are a few songs that I’m just playing just acoustic guitar. Either a Rockbridge guitar or my Washburn signature model. Or the Epiphone archtop that I borrowed from Derek, my tech. And also I have an early ‘70s Guild that I played the acoustic slide on.

When you write do you start with a guitar riff or progression?

Actually, normally I wait until I’m lyrically inspired to write. And these songs are definitely indicative of that. You know, with Mule or the Allman Brothers, some of the songs would start with a riff and see where it went. But for all of these kinds of songs, they were written with acoustic guitar. Usually I’ll get some kind of lyrical idea, and as I’m writing it down, I’ll get some kind of a cadence and a melody. I just find it easier to look at a lyric and capture that kind of mood in music than vice versa.

I love the storytelling aspect of the album. I feel it’s very serious…not too light-hearted.

I guess so, but that’s okay. It’s an extension of folk music and that’s what I love about folk music. It’s meant to be reckoned with.

Find out more and preorder Ashes and Dust at warrenhaynes.net

Add a Comment

Similar Guitar News

Warren Haynes Talks New Acoustic Folk Album, 'Ashes & Dust' (7/28/2015)
Warren Haynes’ name is more likely to be evoked alongside those of Duane Allman, Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, Paul Kossoff, Steve Marriott or even David Gilmour, rather than Bob Dylan or Woody Guthrie. And yet there’s always been a literate stor...
Warren Haynes Offers Details on His Split with Allman Brothers Band (6/16/2015)
When Warren Haynes and Derek Trucks announced their intentions to leave the Allman Brothers Band in early 2014, it seemed to most people that the two guitarists were stepping down independently of the rest of the band. But as Warren Haynes revea...
Tony Iommi, Steve Vai, Zakk Wylde, Warren Haynes Recruited for 2016 Rock Fantasy Camp (10/12/2015)
Steve Vai, Tony Iommi, Zakk Wylde and Warren Haynes have signed on for the 2016 edition of Rock ’n’ Roll Fantasy Camp, taking place February 11–14 in Los Angeles. The guitarists will take part in the camp’s Q&A sessions and the concluding ja...
Steve Vai, Joe Satriani, Joe Bonamassa, Warren Haynes and More Honor Les Paul in New York City's Times Square — Video (6/10/2015)
Yesterday, June 9, 2015, was the 100th anniversary of the late, great Les Paul's birth. To celebrate the occasion, the guitar community threw one hell of a party in New York City's Times Square, not far from the Iridium, where the legendary guit...
Acoustic Nation with Dale Turner: The Soulful Acoustic Work of Warren Haynes (10/7/2015)
Warren Haynes—the eclectic electric-guitar ace behind Gov’t Mule and longtime Allman Brothers Band member and touring guitarist for the Dead—is no stranger to Guitar World readers. His virtuosic, polished blues-rock playing owes just as much to...
Robben Ford Premieres New Song, "High Heels and Throwing Things,” Featuring Warren Haynes (2/16/2015)
Today, GuitarWorld.com presents the exclusive premiere of "High Heels and Throwing Things,” a new song by guitarist Robben Ford. The track, which is from Ford's new album, Into the Sun, features Gov't Mule frontman Warren Haynes on guitar. Into ...
For Sale: Nine Gibson Les Pauls Played by Warren Haynes at Final Allman Brothers Beacon Theatre Shows (10/20/2014)
Thanks to an arrangement between the Gibson Custom Shop, the Allman Brothers Band Museum at the Big House and Warren Haynes, a special selection of Gibson guitars is now available to the public. Each of the nine hand-selected Les Pauls will be ...
Brian Farmer, Warren Haynes' Longtime Guitar Tech, Dead at 53 (8/26/2014)
Warren Haynes’ longtime and beloved guitar tech, Brian Farmer, died Sunday, August 24, at his home near Nashville. Farmer died peacefully in his sleep. He was 53. "He was a close friend, a devoted worker and a lover of life,” Haynes said. “We tr...
Gear Rundown: Warren Haynes and Derek Trucks of the Allman Brothers Band (3/27/2014)
The Allman Brothers Band played 10 nights at New York City's Beacon Theatre before having to postpone their final four shows of the run due to Gregg Allman’s ongoing struggle with bronchitis. They played the final two nights, Friday and Saturda...
Derek Trucks and Warren Haynes to leave Allman Brothers Band (1/9/2014)
Read more about Derek Trucks and Warren Haynes to leave Allman Brothers Band at MusicRadar.com Guitarists Derek Trucks and Warren Haynes have announced that they will be leaving the Allman Brothers Band in 2014. The pair are leaving to concentra...
Warren Haynes and Derek Trucks to Leave Allman Brothers Band at End of 2014 (1/9/2014)
Last night, longtime Allman Brothers Band guitarists Warren Haynes and Derek Trucks announced they'll be departing the band at the end of 2014. "For 25 years and 15 years respectively, we've had the honor and pleasure of playing, living, learnin...
Book/CD: Learn to Play Warren Haynes' Legendary Licks (9/25/2013)
This book/CD set — Warren Haynes Legendary Licks — presents the music of guitar hero Warren Haynes. It includes note-for-note transcriptions from 13 of his songs; detailed performance notes on how to play licks, fills, riffs and solos; an enhan...
Warren Haynes Discusses His Grateful Dead Tribute Show and Gov't Mule's Star-Studded New Album, 'Shout!' (9/23/2013)
This is an excerpt from the November 2013 issue of Guitar World magazine. For the rest of this story, plus a John Petrucci cover story and poster and features on Santana, Guthrie Govan, Zakk Wylde, Lamb of God, Joan Jett, Slash and more, check o...
DVD: Learn Slide Guitar from Six Masters, Including Mick Taylor and Warren Haynes (9/16/2013)
The DVD Learn Slide Guitar with 6 Great Masters! offers six great lessons from the masters of slide guitar: Lee Roy Parnell, Arlen Roth, Warren Haynes, Mick Taylor, Greg Martin and Jay Geils. Lesson 1: Arlen Roth on open E tuning, slide fundamen...
New Book/CD: Learn Slide Guitar from Warren Haynes (7/23/2013)
Learn the slide guitar stylings of Warren Haynes from the man himself! In Warren Haynes — Guide to Slide Guitar, the legendary guitarist of Gov't Mule, Phil Lesh and Friends, the Grateful Dead and the Allman Brothers Band offers instructions on...