When one thinks of Gregg Allman, the words “Southern Rock” are usually one of the first few uttered. As a founding member of the Allman Brothers Band, with songs like “Whipping Post”, and “Statesboro Blues,” his name has been revered among fans of rock, country and blues music, among others, for decades.
If you truly listen to the full catalog of music of the Allman Brothers Band though, you will find that these incredible musicians were much more diverse than given credit for. Influences of soul, R&B, revival, and even jazz music are readily found in their work.
With the release of ‘Low Country Blues’, Allman’s first solo studio release in 14 years, the listener is transported back in time. A compilation of rare blues tunes from years gone by, everything about this album screams of generations long gone. World renown producer T-Bone Burnett has helped create a sound that almost seems out of place being played on a CD.
Low Country Blues is raw, full of pain and anguish. The lyrics of these classics were heartfelt when originally written and brought to life by Allman’s growl. He didn’t have to dig deep in order to generate some of those feelings internally. He has had his share of ups and downs in this world. He contracted hepatitis C from a dirty tattoo artist in San Francisco in the 1960s, lost brother Duane Allman to a 1971 motorcycle accident and struggled with drugs, alcohol and women over the years.
The combination of Allman and Burnett seems like a natural fit, until you hear that Allman had never even heard of the producer. “He has the greatest tactics for recording, and he is so good to work with,” Allman says of Burnett. “Such a fine man, too, and quite a gentleman. I’d never heard of him, never heard his name and never saw him until I shook his hand.”
Things did not start off smoothly though. Musicians tend to follow the same process when writing or recording. Allman was used to doing all of his recording in the southeast. To top it off, he was told he could not bring his band with him. It took the musician over a week to accept the deal and go to Los Angeles.
So how does a stranger who changed everything in Allman’s game get him to go to the west coast? It was the songs; tunes like “I Believe I’ll Go Back Home” that are so old that no one knows who wrote them or hard blues like “Blind Man” by Bobby ‘Blue’ Bland, and Muddy Waters’ “I Can’t Be Satisfied”. Throw in a few Americana-style songs that fit Burnett’s signature sound and you are on the right track. The lone original track is “Just Another Rider,” written by Allman and fellow ABB member Warren Haynes.
It turned out that his concern about not having his band were unnecessary. Burnett had assembled a group of musicians that included old friend, pianist Dr. John, guitarist Doyle Bramhall II, bassist Dennis Crouch and drummer Jay Bellerose. Allman has found success with this combination as ‘Low Country Blues’ has already been the best chart performer of his career as it debuted at number five on the all-genre Billboard 200.
The 63 year-old sounds better than he has in years. He captures those vulnerable moments so well in Melvin London’s “Little by Little” and Skip James’ “Devil Got My Woman.” This is not Robert Plant finding folk music for a re-birth of his career. Allman has lived these moments all of his life. There are no weak moments on this album.
Written by Victor Alfieri