Review : Gregg Allman - Low Country Blues
PopmattersDespite their (often excellent, but also often cloying) forays into “Southern rock”, the Allman Brothers has always been a blues band at heart. And not just a pretty good blues band, either, but an innovative, boundary-pushing, genre-redefining blues band. Their dueling/harmonizing guitar formats have influenced a generation of garage wailers; their interweaving of deliberate song structures and tension/release instrumental explorations has defined the sound of countless jam bands; and their expert blend of traditional formats (Chicago, Delta, Country, Swamp, Appalachian) verily re-imagined the contours of the blues song. But, if your only exposure to them has been through radio staples like “Ramblin’ Man”, “Melissa” or “Blue Sky”, these points could have been easily missed. Their blues acumen may have been diluted, in your mind, by their stoner associations, their magic mushroom marketing campaigns, their (mostly) long-haired white-guy-ness. “Bob Seger with longer guitar solos”, was how a colleague once dismissed them (and, specifically, Gregg Allman’s distinctive drawling vocals). But, I am here to tell you, this would be a mistake.
And, strangely enough, it’s Gregg Allman’s first solo release in 14 years that might be the way to fix this mistake, to show you the way back in. This may just be the re-entry point music lovers haven’t known that they’ve been looking for. A straight-ahead Americana masterpiece, Low Country Blues is warm, homespun, and yet packed with firecracker performances. Backed by a dream band comprised of Doyle Bramhall II on guitar, upright bassist Dennis Crouch and drummer Jay Bellerose, horns arranged by trumpeter Darrell Leonard, and Mac “Dr. John” Rebennack on piano, Gregg tackles 11 (mostly) forgotten tracks from his dusty old record collection, including songs by Muddy Waters, Skip James, Little Milton, and Sleepy John Estes. (The one original composition here, a co-write with Allman guitarist Warren Haynes, feels amazingly in synch with this 60- and 70-year-old material.) In every case, Gregg’s incomparable vocals take centre stage; it’s astounding that the man’s voice hasn’t lost an ounce of its emotive power in these past 40 years. (“I have an evolved throat”, he explains in his press release!) It rasps, it sweeps, it snarls, it bites, and it does it even more effectively today than back in his younger days....full text
RollingstoneGregg Allman's blues-wolf growl and soul-church charge on the Hammond B-3 organ are so identified with — and perfect for — the electric improvising brawn of the Allman Brothers Band that it is a shock to hear Allman's voice and instrumental stamp in any other setting. But Low Country Blues is a tailor-made stretch, to an earthy turmoil that feels like homecoming: a trip with the spirits that shaped his band's sound and mission — B.B. King, Muddy Waters, Skip James, Otis Rush — with all of the healing that implies.
The 100 Greatest Singers of All Time: Number 70, Gregg Allman
Produced by T Bone Burnett, Allman's first solo album since 1997 is virtually all covers, and the one exception nearly qualifies. "Just Another Rider," co-written with Warren Haynes, is an obvious sequel to the Allman Brothers staple "Midnight Rider," infused with brass and more regret. Otherwise, Allman sticks to down-home and downhearted fundamentals such as Junior Wells' "Little by Little," Amos Milburn's "Tears, Tears, Tears" and Rush's "Checking on My Baby," while Burnett whips up his trademark shanty-party stew: crusted-treble guitars, bull fiddle and swamp-water reverb. When Allman turns on the snarling impatience in Waters' "I Can't Be Satisfied," it feels like business as usual, except for the stark hard-rubber stride of bassist Dennis Crouch and drummer Jay Bellerose, which suggests a skeleton rushing to catch a bus....full text
AllaboutjazzLow Country Blues is keyboardist/vocalist Gregg Allman's first solo album in fourteen years, and in many ways unlike any other project of its kind. Comprised largely of blues covers by the likes of Muddy Waters and Sleepy John Estes, and produced by the estimable T-Bone Burnett, it nevertheless is as personal a piece of work as Allman's very first album under his own name, Laid Back (Capricorn/Polder, 1973).
But where that album was distinctly of its time, including Allman Brothers staples and other originals plus selected covers like Jackson Browne's "These Days," this Rounder release sounds timeless—almost as if it could've been recorded at the time many of its songs were originally written, back in the thirties, forties and fifties. The recording is clear and full—thanks, not just to Burnett, but to recording engineer Mike Persante and master engineer Gavin Lurssen—but the antique quality of the electric guitar and piano on "Floating Bridge," courtesy of Mac Rebennack aka Dr. John, is impossible to miss.
During the course of performing on his own and with The Allman Brothers Band, Allman has often sounded like the world-weariest of singers, but he's rarely sounded as aged as he does here. Still, if it's possible to sound resolute in proportion to one's years, Allman does so here, recounting a brush with death—which is probably not all that novel an experience for this man, metaphorically and otherwise. Just to dispel the notion of a one-colored production, however, Allman belts it out on Junior Wells' "Little by Little," opening with a swell of Allman's instrument of choice, the Hammond B-3 organ, which plays a prominent role in his succinct arrangement.
Doyle Bramhall II's electric guitar rides the rhythm of that instrument, as he plays "Devil Got My Woman," while the isolated sound of Colin Linden's dobro mirrors the bleak lyrics of the Skip James' song in the sparse, quiet opening and closing sections of this track. ...full text
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