Gregg Allman has always been a guy who colors outside the lines, in my opinion. There’s no question that The Allman Brothers Band has serious staying power. Probably best known for “Sweet Melissa,” Allman is a bluesy, jam-band pioneer who practically invented Southern Rock. As most followers of Allman Brothers music probably know, Gregg has had a long career that began with he and his brother playing together when they were only in high school. They followed what is now an almost a non-existent route to success – they were signed by a label. Although the sound of the album they produced was definitely not what they wanted, it did begin a lifelong, winding success story for Gregg. (Sadly, his brother passed away in 1973.)
Allman would tell you himself that he’s been way up in his life, and he’s definitely been down. Last year the 63-year old musician had a liver transplant AND a new album in the works. Released just a few weeks ago, “Low Country Blues” was produced by T Bone Burnett. In it, Allman covers music from some of the music that most influenced his own life and voice – from Muddy Waters and BB King, to Buddy Guy and Magic Sam. Low Country Blues is definitely one of those “up” moments in Gregg Allman’s remarkable body of work. It’s rich with passion and implies a deep understanding of those highs and lows that life throws at all of us.
It was T Bone Burnett who brought Allman the initial idea of a cover album. Said Allman in a recent interview, “He told me some guy gave him a hard drive, it has 10,000 obscure blues songs… He says, ‘I’m gonna pick out twenty of ‘em and send ‘em to ya and you tell me what you think.’ He said, ‘They’re old, like Billie Holliday old, and when you listen to ‘em, I want you to think about us gettin’ in there and about bringin’ ‘em up to today.’” The recording process was amazingly easy and electrifying, said Allman in his easy southern drawl, “If it works right, it all turns real magic, and that’s what happened this time, more so I think than anything I’ve ever recorded. We got 15 masters in 11 days; let me tell ya, they just went Pop! Pop! Pop! Pop!”
Pop is the right word – the album definitely has chops. It has a unique, deep bluesy sound, easily recognized as pure Allman, and backed by a troupe of A-listers in the music world. In addition to Burnett and Allman, Doyle Bramhall II also played on guitar. The rhythm section was comprised of upright bassist Dennis Crouch and drummer Jay Bellerose, and the lineup included a brass section led by trumpeter Darrell Leonard (whose resume extends al the way back to his work with Gregg’s late brother, Duane Allman). Finally, the sounds of Night Tripper, Mac “Dr. John” Rebennack, completed the pack on piano. (Rebennack co-wrote “Let This Be A Lesson To Ya’” with Gregg on The Gregg Allman Band’s 1977 classic, Playin’ Up A Storm.) To add to the overall collaborative effort, the album’s one original composition, “Just Another Rider” was even co-written with longtime ABB guitarist Warren Haynes.
A gypsy at heart, Gregg Allman is both a traditionalist and a non-traditionalist. He is eager to get out and tour the new songs, kicking off in New York on March 10th at the historic Beacon Theatre and then winding his way around the east coast and then through Europe – landing back on this continent late in September with two dates in Canada. You can find his entire tour schedule at https://bit.ly/GreggAllmanTour and definitely pick up the album – at under twelve bucks; it’s a million-dollar participation in the voice of a true American music giant. https://amzn.to/GreggAllmanAlbum
“Places you been, things that you done, and somehow you’re still on the run,” Allman sings on the original song “Just Another Rider.” I think we’re all glad that this guy is still out there on the run, entertaining and inspiring the rest of us to do the same.
Kelli Richards, CEO, The All Access Group, LLC