Album Reviews

Various Artists – Midnight Rider: A Tribute To The Allman Brothers Band (Cleopatra)

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Allman Brothers Band tribute

When they fold up their billowing mushroom tent for the final time, 2014 will have been a full-on Allman Brothers year given the variety of concert celebrations, albums, DVDs, and books that flowed copiously throughout it. No other legacy institution continued for so long to not only be relevant, but visionary. Thus, paying tribute to The Allman Brothers Band proves difficult because it’s impossible to live up to the spirit of their performances, and tough to put a unique spin on their songs. At the helm here is John Wesley, a Florida guitarist with some heady friends and fast connections. But the album’s definitely disjointed. Cuts by Pat Travers, Leon Russell with Ronnie Earl, the Oak Ridge Boys with Tinsley Ellis, and others just don’t cut the mustard or flow together overall.

There are several captivating moments, to varying degrees. Molly Hatchet’s treatment of “Melissa” toughens the ode, and a precise version of “Whipping Post” benefits considerably from old friends Jimmy Hall and Steve Morse, singing, and ripping on guitar respectively. Robben Ford takes a run at Elmore James’s “One Way Out” at the same pace the Allman’s made a hit out of it with over forty years ago. His sweet guitar and peerless California soul polish the old blues into a brand new luster. But the brightest spots during these Midnight Rider sessions arrive with Roy Rogers’ treatment of “Jessica,” and Sonny Landreth and Commander Cody’s romp on “Southbound.” Both slide guitar masters offer a uniquely perfect balance of reverence, individuality, and heart.     

– Tom Clarke 

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