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
Like much of the world, I’ve spent the last week thinking about John Lennon and the anniversary of his death on December 8th. It’s honestly hard to believe that thirty years have passed since he was taken from us in a single moment’s insanity. In fact, most of the time, it’s hard to believe that John’s really gone at all. His was far more than the voice of a generation – it was often the voice of our hearts and our conscience.
And as unimaginable as it is to hold space for the thirty years of unspoken words and unwritten songs, what I truly cannot get away from this week is the rest of John. As great a man as he was, and as truly generous a soul – especially to his fellow musicians – for two men out there, John Lennon wasn’t a Beatle – or an icon – he was simply Dad.
I met Julian Lennon for the first time several years ago. I was struck with how gracious he was and how engaging – how much he reminded me of his father and how strongly he had aligned with his Dad’s passion for peace and conservation. But I was also captured by the deep sadness he seemed to bear, just under that gracious surface. I remember sharing with Julian how sorry I was for his loss – and recognizing how he had lost his dad, twice really. It was a deeply heartfelt conversation and a genuine connection. In a career filled with world=renowned musicians and many celebrity relationships – it is one that has stayed with me at a core level.
Julian has his own voice of course. His new album “Everything Changes” should be out by next year, and in October he helped his mom, Cynthia Lennon, publicize the John Lennon Peace Monument in Liverpool. And Sean has found his own path as well, now co-leading a band with his musician / model girlfriend, Charlotte Kemp Muhl (Ghost Of A Saber Tooth Tiger.)
But all successes aside, it’s still Julian I think of often – and Sean. How the thread of their lives with their dad, John Lennon, was forever cut short by something so senseless and beyond comprehension. I have always been struck by how much Julian looks and sounds like his father – in the way that only fathers and sons can. In fact, one of my career aspirations has always been to create a benefit concert with Julian and Paul McCartney around John Lennon’s music. To use the talents I have to honor how much was left unsaid, by one of the people who most deserved to hear it – his son. Julian embodies his own gifts and talents along with his father’s.
I suppose that is really my attempt to make sense of these things – this loss – to find some deeper meaning. To find some thread of understanding that will provide some peace – for Julian and for the rest of us. To knit a golden thread through time and space and recapture one of the greatest voices of humanity, and to simply risk listening and hearing what we MIGHT some day achieve – if we would only imagine. John’s greatest gifts were surely his music and his wish for peace and love which inspired and sparked a generation. And we are truly fortunate that his legacy and grace endures and burns most brightly in Sean and Julian.
Kelli Richards, CEO, The All Access Group, LLC
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