Gregg Allman: Low Country Blues (2011)
Low Country Blues is Gregg Allman's eighth (not counting anthologies) solo recording. His previous solo effort was 1997's Searching for Simplicity (Sony), and for those counting, that was 14 years ago. His present recording reflects a trend established with Johnny Cash's American> releases (American Recordings, 1994-2010) and Joe Cocker's Organic (550 Music, 1996), and most recently manifesting in Tom Jones' Praise and Blame (Island Records, 2010)
These are recordings made relatively late in each artists' career under the direction of firebrand producers (Rick Rubin, Don Was and Ethan Johns, respectively) that were well-received critically and were characterized by exacting engineering. Enter here T-Bone Burnett (no stranger to leaving his fingerprints everywhere, see The Union (Decca Music Group, 2010)). Burnett has been whipping artists into shape since the '80s, and shows no intention of slowing down. What he does for Gregg Allman is surround the Southern icon with a crack bunch of musicians while appealing to the singer's strengths with some well-worn blues standards, seasoned with more than a few real surprises.
The result sounds like a kind of cross between Johnny Cash's American IV: The Man Comes Around (American Recordings, 2002) and Lowell George's Thanks, I'll Eat It Here (Warner Brothers, 1979). Burnett was intent on recasting Allman's command of the blues in a way that was sonically modern with a nostalgic touch of retrospect. Burnett casts Allman against a variety of formats. Like Thanks, I'll Eat It Here, this format shifting is jarring as one song may have spare instrumentation (Skip James' wiry "Devil Got My Woman" versus B.B. King's horn-section supplemented "Please Accept My Love"). The Allman-Warren Haynes original, "Just Another Rider," is given the full treatment and represents the closing chapter to the Allman Brother's "Midnight Rider."
The choice of repertoire is clever. Aside from Muddy Waters'"Rolling Stone" and "I Can't Be Satisfied," the remaining songs benefit from not having been covered to death. The inclusion of "Devil Got My Woman" is inspired as this was the signature song of a singular talent (James). Allman attempts to emulate James' dying man's gasp of a voice, and sings the piece straight to great effect. While Burnett and Allman may try too hard to make this collection about the Blues, they nevertheless produce an offering better than the majority of music out there.
Track Listing: Floating Bridge; Little By Little; Devil Got My Woman; I Can't Be Satisfied; Blind Man; Just Another Rider; Please Accept My Love; I Believe I'll Go Back Home; Tears Tears Tears; My Love is Your Love; Checking On My Baby; Rolling Stone.
Personnel: Gregg Allman: vocals, Hammond B-3 organ; Doyle Bramhall II: guitar; T- Bone Burnett: guitar; Vincent Esquer: guitar; Hadley Hawkensworth: guitar; Colin Linden: dobro; Mac Rebennack: piano; Dennis Crouch: acoustic bass; Jay Bellerose: drums; Darrell Leonard: bass trumpet; Tom Peterson: baritone sax; Joseph Sublett: tenor sax; Darrell Fornero: trumpet; Lester Lovitt: Trumpet; Jim Thompson: tenor sax.