Slash, Billy Gibbons and Myles Kennedy were three of the guest stars at Warren Haynes’ Christmas Jam at Harrah’s Cherokee Center in Asheville, NC this past weekend (December 9) – and one of the set highlights was their collective cover of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s Simple Man.
Kennedy joined mainly on rhythm and vocal duties, leaving the three electric guitar icons – Slash, Gibbons and Haynes – to divvy up lead duties throughout the nine-minute performance.
It’s a great take on the Skynyrd classic, reprising the guitarists’ Gary Rossington tribute from this year's CMT Awards. This time round it lacks Paul Rodgers, but benefits from Kennedy and Haynes’ alternating vocals.
The December iteration is also a little more relaxed and off-the-cuff to our ears, and one of the things that really stands out here is that all of the soloists are performing the same track using a Gibson Les Paul, yet they all sound unique.
Gibbons gets the nod from Haynes to take the first solo pass [around 2:40], melding the track’s epic Rossington bends with his own shuffling rhythms and that distinctive, almost metallic ‘Top tone.
He then takes a backseat and seems to find his pocket with some almost percussive rhythm playing, pulling out mutes and chucks to make space for the three other guitarists (and keyboardist) in the mix.
Next, Slash gets a run – and the biggest lead section – at around 4:50, hitching his LP to its trademark 45 degree solo position and mixing in a generous handful of his rapid pick 'n' bend technique, bringing a little LA scuzz to the Southern classic.
He’s impeded somewhat by losing a string [you can see it’s hanging off at about 6:13], but persists nonetheless before handing the lead to Haynes.
Now it should be said that music is not a competition and obviously you can’t win a jam, but... supposing for a minute that it is a competition and you can win a jam: we’d give the prize to Haynes.
The Gov't Mule man’s section is comparatively short-lived, but his tone is just riding the edge of clean and crunch and you can hear the pick digging into the strings. He weaves in some killer volume control work, riding notes in and out, but also heads down the lower-end, finding some new spaces to play in, as the solo sections conclude.
Elsewhere in the set, Haynes, Slash and Kennedy performed a stomping version of AC/DC’s You Shook Me All Night Long [above] and the Bob Dylan/GN’R favorite Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door, while Gibbons delivered ZZ Top hits like Jesus Just Left Chicago and Sharp Dressed Man.
When it comes to onstage collaborations, the Gov't Mule man has clearly been busy – it was only last week that footage emerged of Haynes performing an epic cover of Neil Young’s Cortez The Killer with J Mascis.