Artist: Gregg Allman
Album: Southern Blood
Release Date: 09.08.2017
“I hope you’re haunted by the music of my soul when I’m gone,” Gregg Allman implores in “My Only True Friend,” the stout wash of soulful rock that gets Southern Blood flowing. There he is, pouring out his pain, one last time, about a life lived and loved, for the music and the road.
Gregg Allman knew his road wouldn’t go on forever when he walked into Fame Studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, with producer Don Was. He chose that hallowed space because it brought him full circle. Allman and his long-gone brother, Duane Allman, recorded there with Hour Glass in the 1960s, and Duane then made a tremendous mark as a Fame session guitarist for the likes of Wilson Pickett and Aretha Franklin. All before The Allman Brothers Band was even a thought. Senses of finality and acceptance certainly permeate this music, from the lyrics to the weariness apparent in Allman’s voice. But inspiration, reflection, gratitude, and dignity, within remarkable performances, win out consistently.
Each of Allman’s now seven solo albums are distinct, this one feeling the most natural as his knockout nine-piece road band plays it. The songs were carefully chosen to tell the Gregg Allman story, be it metaphorically, or in fact. Allman’s expressiveness during a relaxed saunter through Tim Buckley’s “Once I Was,” featuring a hot, jazzy sax solo by Jay Collins, harkens back to Laid Back, Allman’s 1973 solo debut. The words Allman sings in his poignant take of Dylan’s “Going Going Gone” could bring a tear, while Greg Leisz’s weeping pedal steel and the McCrary Sisters’ gospel harmonies add a sense of timelessness. Naturally, he touches on the blues, with a proud romp through Willie Dixon’s “I Love the Life I Live,” and “Blind Bats and Swamp Rats,” a funky dirge first recorded by Johnny Jenkins with brother Duane sitting in. In each case, the hotbloodedness in Allman’s voice calls to mind his best days, and guitarist Scott Sharrard digs in with class. Plush, Nashville-inspired (Allman’s birthplace) takes of Little Feat’s “Willin’” and the Dead’s “Black Muddy River” fit well in the Allman oeuvre. To call it a day, Jackson Browne sings harmony with his old friend on “Song for Adam,” tender sadness prevailing in Browne’s story of life’s journey, and fate.
RIP Mr. Allman. The music of your soul lives on.