Another Christmas, another Christmas Jam (the 23rd!), and another archival release from events past, Warren Haynes Presents: The Benefit Concert Vol. 4. Get ready to get merry â€“ this oneâ€™s a doozy.
Recorded during the 2002 installment of Warren Haynesâ€™ annual benefit for Asheville, North Carolinaâ€™s Habitat for Humanity, this double-disc release documents an explosive night of rocking performances and inspired collaborations.Â Opening with a sparse reading of James Taylorâ€™s â€œCarolina in My Mindâ€ â€“ a clear nod to the hometown crowd in Asheville â€“ the performances build energy song over song. A brooding â€œClimb to Safetyâ€ by Jerry Joseph and Dave Schools gives way to a twofer from Robert Randolph and the Family Band. But the high point of this first disc comes from moe. and the â€œDark Starâ€ jam that gives way to the festive â€œMexico.”
The meat of The Benefit Concert Vol. 4 is found on the second disc in Bob Weir and Friendsâ€™ uber-funky â€œShakedown Streetâ€ that segues into â€œTruckin’â€ before transforming into â€œThe Other One.â€ To cap the album, Govâ€™t Muleâ€™s sprawling delivery of â€œSco Muleâ€ – with help from DJ Logic, Dr. Dan Mantrazo, and Mike Barnes – emanates feral power, and the Mule closes out the collection in high style with a cover of Lynyrd Skynyrdâ€™s â€œSimple Manâ€ with help from former Skynyrd drummer Artemis Pile, along with Schools, Audley Freed, and Rob Baracco.
Oddly enough, the only downside to the Benefit Concert Vol. 4 is its brevity. At two discs and two-and-a-half hours, the release highlights the featured acts from the 2002 installment, but given the four-plus hour marathon shows for which the Christmas Jam is known, it only whets the appetite. The stellar cherry-picked performances by Bob Weir & Friends and Govâ€™t Mule, in particular, leave a great deal of music absent from the collection.
The annual Christmas Jam is legendary; year after year Haynes puts together a spirited party for the sold-out crowd, and creates a collaborative Mecca for the performers. While the event only comes but once a year, The Benefit Concert series is a gift that keeps on giving. Vol. 4 is a release that will have a home in this writerâ€™s playlist well beyond the holiday season.
Warren Haynes Presents: The Benefit Concert Vol. 4 is out now on Evil Teen Records.