Tuesday, January 18, 2011


2011 is starting out great, musically, there's already been two albums that I love: the new Social D album, and also Gregg Allman's latest solo effort, Low Country Blues.

Some may ask what the point of a Gregg Allman solo album is. Years ago, I got it: Gregg and Allmans guitarist/singer Dickey Betts famously didn't get along, so I figured when he did his last solo album, 1997's Searching For Simplicity, it was to do an album without having to deal with Betts. But these days, he seems to get along well with all his bandmates.

But here's the real deal: despite being the namesake and the main voice of one of the quintessential "jam bands," he's not really into that scene! He is a blues and soul guy, and blues and soul songs are generally between two and a half and five minutes long. The jazz influence of the late '60s, which entailed lots of improvisation and musical exploration, led to long jams and songs that broke the ten minute barrier. My understanding is that isn't really his thing, it was more Betts, his brother Duane and the other guys in the band. But it's become what The Allman Brothers Band are known for, and he's OK with that. But when he goes off on his own, he is more song oriented, and not as "jammy." The problem I sometimes have with his solo music is that it's a bit too laid back (and he even released a solo album called Laid Back!).

For his new album, he teamed up with T-Bone Burnett, or as I sometimes call him, "Him Again!" I say that with great respect and admiration though, in recent years he's produced good and great albums by Elton John and Leon Russell, Ryan Bingham, John Mellencamp, Robert Randolph, Willie Nelson, Jakob Dylan, Elvis Costello, B.B. King, the Crazy Heart soundtrack, and of course the Robert Plant & Alison Krauss album. Burnett definitely has a sound, it's a rustic, down-home kind of thing. And it totally suits Gregg. He's singing blues the way they were meant to be sung, not a supper-club version or a psychedelic super-extended version of it (not that there's anything wrong with either of those). Burnett gets some of the best vocal performances out of the guy in decades.  Save for one original, co-written by Gregg with Brother Warren Haynes, it's all covers, but doesn't come off like some novelty project. It's really tight: he uses some of Burnett's regular musicians, plus Doyle Bramhall on guitar and Dr. John on piano.  It just works.  It is the most innovative thing I've heard? No.  But it is a great blues and soul singer, singing great blues and soul. It's not some old guy hitting the studio because it's "time" for a new album, it's a legend who just rediscovered a fire in him, and he's letting it out. I predict it will be one of my favorite albums of the year. Even if you don't like The Allmans (I am a huge fan by the way) I think you may enjoy it.

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