Warren Haynes - Ashes & Dust featuring Railroad Earth

Review by Shannon Shumaker

What isn’t there to love about Warren Haynes’ new album, Ashes & Dust? From beautiful acoustic and string arrangements to remarkable vocal work and lyricism, Ashes & Dust featuring Railroad Earth is some of Haynes’ best work to date.

Not quite convinced? Just take a listen to the album’s first track, “ Is It Me Or You,” which hooks you almost immediately with an incredible violin part before leading easily into a full band and quite possibly some of the best songwriting on Ashes & Dust. The instrumentation on “Is It Me Or You” is out of this world - the string instruments compliment one another perfectly, the lone violin providing beautiful bursts of warmth throughout the whole song, and that’s all on top of incredible vocal work. The chorus of “Is It Me Or You” provides great vocal harmonies, and the vocals, while very well controlled and polished throughout much of the song, are definitely not lacking in heart and soul, becoming more emotional and raw as it progresses. And that’s just the first track.

It’s impossible not to get swept away in the incredible songwriting and storytelling on Ashes & Dust. Even the second track, “Coal Tattoo” is a great example of this, as it’s hard to choose the strongest part of the song. The vocal harmonies are amazing, but the guitar work is easily some of the album’s strongest, as well. And where “Coal Tattoo” is more upbeat and full of fast guitar work, the following track, “Blue Maiden’s Tale,” is a folk ballad with a jaw-dropping string section and amazing storytelling. Two songs later, “New Year’s Eve” comes in with more personal lyricism and a highly relatable theme. While musically, “New Year’s Eve” may not be as complex as the rest of the album, it really hits home lyrically, opening strong with the line, “Next year’s gonna be better, next year will surely be the one.” The following track, “Stranded In Self-Pity” is another personal one, and again, the strong lyricism reflects it.

The great thing about Ashes & Dust is the way that the album evokes emotions. There are definitely some fast paced, high energy tracks (such as “Coal Tattoo”) but it seems that the strongest songs are the more emotionally driven tracks, such as “Glory Road,” which still hosts the great instrumentation found on the rest of the album, but hits home with raw vocals and strong harmonies. Each song on Ashes & Dust makes you feel something, and Haynes’ shining cover of Fleetwood Mac’s “Gold Dust Woman” is no exception.

Each song on Ashes & Dust is full of strong storytelling, flawless instrumentation and beautiful vocal work. Even in the album’s final tracks, Haynes doesn’t hold back, with soulful “Wanderlust” and strong closing song, “Word On The Wind,” which seems to take you right back to the beginning with incredibly strong instrumentation and raw vocal work, clocking in at over six minutes in length. Warren Haynes’ new release strikes gold with unforgettably remarkable songwriting and storytelling that will keep you coming back for more.

Rating: 5/5

Listen to "Word On The Wind" or "Is It Me Or You"

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