Allman Brother gets back to what he always did best
Gregg Allman was a sort of Hamlet of Blues-Rock, that much is certain; and no stranger when it came to tragedy. His father was murdered when he was aged only two; his brother Duane perished as a result of a motorcycle accident in 1971, at the tender age of twenty-four; while his band’s bassist Berry Oakley died just one year later (on the very same road as Duane spookily enough). Add to this the suicide of two girlfriends, several failed marriages (the most famous of which was with Cher, whom he married twice), along with a few decades of major drug and alcohol abuse. So if there was one man qualified to sing the blues (perhaps overly qualified one might say) it was indeed Allman.
Released in 2011, Low Country Blues was Gregg’s eleventh solo album, and easily one of his best. The only question is what took him so long. Here we have twelve songs delivered by Allman, whose unmistakable gruff and world-weary vocals are in fine form throughout. The LP was produced by T-Bone Burnett, and is made up of mostly covers, including the likes of Skip James, Otis Rush, Muddy Waters and B.B. King. The sound is earthy, organic, and just the way the blues should be presented, which means that everything has an authentic, almost historic feel to it, with not a synthesizer in sight, something almost unheard of nowadays.
On opener “Floating Bridge” (written by John Adam Estes) Allman sings with the sort of conviction that was always at the core of his delivery even as a young man. Where in his youth he sounded ancient, like someone far beyond his years, now he just is ancient, like some prehistoric blues singer who knows how to howl it out and beat the devil at his own game. “Little by Little” is another convincing cover, full of authentic antique production, same with “Devil Got My Woman”, which is the sort of song Gregg was simply born to sing, proving that he still had more than a few hellhounds on his trail.
His take on Muddy Waters’ “I Can’t Be Satisfied” is about as macrobiotic as it gets, unlike “Blind Man”, which is all brass and Otis Rush-like guitar, circa early ‘60s Chicago. It’s all pretty old world stuff.
Co-written with Warren Haynes, “Just Another Rider” could be described as an updated “Midnight Rider”, from The Allman Brothers’ second album Idlewild South. It’s certainly the most modern sounding track, and one on which Allman absolutely shines, and is reminiscent of some of the material cut for his 1973 solo LP Laid Back. We get a decent workout of B.B. King’s “Please Accept My Love”, while on “I Believe I’ll Go Back Home” Gregg’s plaintive vocals are as strong as ever.
Allman is right in his element with his rendition of Amos Milburn’s “Tears, Tears, Tears”, with its barroom piano and sweaty, sultry brass section. “My Love Is Your Love” is another old fashioned number drenched in Mississippi reverb and swamp invested atmospherics. Gregg gets all grizzly on Otis Rush’s “Checking on My Baby”, where his execution is never unconvincing. He is joined by Mac Rebennack on “Rolling Stone”, which closes the album. At over seven minutes it’s the longest track and a suitable way to end what is overall a superb collection of performances.
Low Country Blues is an album fraught with ghosts and eerie reflections, made by a man who had obviously stared into the abyss and survived to tell the tale, a tale which sadly came to an end on 27th May 2017.