Considering his past of mostly dabbling in rock and blues music, Ashes & Dust isn’t quite what you would expect from Warren Haynes, one of the men behind groups like Gov’t Mule and The Allman Brothers Band. The direction this time leans heavily on the Americana sound, with more folk to it than blues, thanks to the input from Americana band Railroad Earth throughout. It sounds like a good idea on paper, and the third album usually marks a good time for change, but in execution it’s a slightly different story.
The sound of the album is about what you would expect from the defining genres mentioned above. It’s all guitars and drums, with a heavy violin accompaniment throughout and occasional appearances from the banjo and mandolin. It’s got the trademark length of Haynes’ albums too, with no songs clocking in at under 4 minutes. The album starts off strong with Is It Me Or You and Coal Tattoo, the first two songs on the album. Coal Tattoo‘s extended jam-style outro is entertaining enough, though the fact that the song lasts for seven minutes does detract from it somewhat.
The album’s main problem is that it never really evolves past this point, falling into similar patterns and allowing songs that haven’t got very interesting arrangements in the first place to last sometimes far beyond a reasonable amount of time. This is a problem mimicked in the deluxe edition’s bonus tracks, which consists of acoustic demo versions of some of the album’s tracks. Considering the album is already pretty close to acoustic, hearing them stripped down to the bare guitar and vocals doesn’t hold as much appeal as it usually would.
The album does have a few defining moments later on, though. Gold Dust Woman isn’t majorly different, but the guest vocals from Grace Potter do a lot to flesh the song out, with the mixture of male and female vocals being a welcome addition. Spots of Time is a little too long, at almost nine minutes in length, but the two and a half minute jam session in the middle of the song is entertaining, even if it doesn’t really facilitate multiple listens.
Ultimately, however, Ashes & Dust is both far too dense and stuck in its ways to hold much appeal to anyone but hardcore Americana fans. Even with the defining moments in the mix, they’re happy with just sticking to their guns for the hour and a half that the album lasts, meaning they get buried beneath everything around them. Had it been more of a mixture with elements of his previous music rather than just a straight transition, Ashes & Dust could have been stronger, but in reality Warren Haynes’ latest effort wasn’t his most successful.