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Behind the Mule

The 2012 edition of the Labatt Canal Concert Series kicks off next Friday with one of the coolest double bills of the season. Topped by the mighty Warren Haynes and Gov't Mule, with Saskatoon's modern Southern rock/blues outfit the Sheepdogs sharing the duties, this one should hold some serious appeal for connoisseurs of the electric guitar.

Haynes -- on his own, with the Mule and as a member of the Allman Brothers, as well as through cameos with the likes of the Dead -- is one of the finest modern blues, soul, R&B and jam-band pickers going. With a killer tone and an immaculate sense of phrasing both as guitarist and vocalist, Haynes leads Gov't Mule into terrain somewhere between legendary British power-trio Cream, the Black Crowes, the Allman Brothers and old-school Memphis soul every time he comes to town, and this time should be no different.

The Sheepdogs, making its area debut after winning Rolling Stone's best unsigned band contest and landing on that magazine's cover last year, brings a guitar attack that suggests a mash-up between My Morning Jacket and Lynyrd Skynyrd. Whooo-eee!

Add two smoking area bands -- heavy blues/stoner rock howlers Handsome Jack and the awesomely avant-garde funk of Salt Peter -- and you've got the makings of a night to remember.

The Labatt Canal Concert series takes place at 5 p.m. outdoors at the Ulrich City Center, Lockport.

-- Jeff Miers