16 Songs, 1 Hour, 14 Minutes

EDITORS’ NOTES

In an inspired pairing, producer T Bone Burnett teams up with Gregg Allman on Low Country Blues, the veteran Southern rocker’s first solo album in nearly 14 years. The voice of the Allman Brothers Band does more than trade on his legendary status here — he renews his stature by reconnecting with the blues and R&B sounds that inspired him in his youth. Allman makes these songs his own by infusing them with a sense of his personal trials and hardships. His raw-throated takes on Otis Rush’s “Checking On My Baby” and Sleepy John Estes’ “Floating Bridge” are at once pain-wracked and commanding; on Bobby Bland’s “Blind Man,” he displays the seductive finesse of an uptown bluesman. Even more visceral is Allman’s treatment of Skip James’ ”Devil Got My Woman,” rendered here as a swampy roadhouse stomper. Burnett surrounds the singer with an A-list crew of players, with Mac (Dr. John) Rebennack’s moody yet ever-swinging piano and Doyle Bramhall II’s slithery guitar lines lending support. Gritty, haunting and eloquent, Low Country Blues marks Allman’s return to the front ranks of American music.

EDITORS’ NOTES

In an inspired pairing, producer T Bone Burnett teams up with Gregg Allman on Low Country Blues, the veteran Southern rocker’s first solo album in nearly 14 years. The voice of the Allman Brothers Band does more than trade on his legendary status here — he renews his stature by reconnecting with the blues and R&B sounds that inspired him in his youth. Allman makes these songs his own by infusing them with a sense of his personal trials and hardships. His raw-throated takes on Otis Rush’s “Checking On My Baby” and Sleepy John Estes’ “Floating Bridge” are at once pain-wracked and commanding; on Bobby Bland’s “Blind Man,” he displays the seductive finesse of an uptown bluesman. Even more visceral is Allman’s treatment of Skip James’ ”Devil Got My Woman,” rendered here as a swampy roadhouse stomper. Burnett surrounds the singer with an A-list crew of players, with Mac (Dr. John) Rebennack’s moody yet ever-swinging piano and Doyle Bramhall II’s slithery guitar lines lending support. Gritty, haunting and eloquent, Low Country Blues marks Allman’s return to the front ranks of American music.

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Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5

185 Ratings

Allmusic's Hal Horowitz

R.Bow.,

Given his place in the pantheon of American rock music, Gregg Allman's solo career away from the Allman Brothers Band has been generally disappointing. Perhaps that's why it took nearly a decade between his previous album, 1997's Searching for Simplicity (its title alone indicates his frustrations) and 1988's over-produced yet underwhelming Just Before the Bullets Fly. A whopping 14 years later, Allman joins forces with roots producer to the stars T-Bone Burnett, hoping that some of the latter's mojo can rub off on a singer who is one of the great white soul and blues vocalists in rock music. For the most part it does, as the duo choose 11 relatively obscure covers from classic artists such as Bobby "Blue" Bland, Junior Wells, and B.B. King that have clearly influenced Allman's musical approach. The backing is organic but far from stripped-down with horns, multiple guitars, and even background vocalists supporting the singer's patented crusty growl. From the opening raw thump of the ominous Sleepy John Estes' "Floating Bridge" to a peppy yet intense take on Muddy Waters' "I Can't be Satisfied" and a fiery reworking of Magic Sam's "My Love Is Your Love," Allman sounds invested and inspired by this material and his musical surroundings. Veterans such as Dr. John (credited here with his real name, Mac Rebennack), Doyle Bramhall II, and Burnett's often used rhythm section of drummer Jay Bellerose and Dennis Crouch on bass keep a taut yet easygoing lock on the groove. That's particularly evident on the predominantly acoustic version of Skip James' "Devil Got My Woman." The horns that appear on five tunes never overpower the sound yet help propel Allman's soul-searing performance of Bland's "Blind Man." Ditto for Otis Rush's slow blues "Checking on My Baby," which brings the vocalist back to his "Stormy Monday"-styled beginnings. One original co-written with Allman Brothers Band guitarist Warren Haynes, "Just Another Rider," while not a terrible song, pales in comparison with the rest of the material and could have been saved for the next Brothers album, where it might make a better fit. Allman is credited with B-3 on the majority of the tunes, but his contributions are generally mixed so low as to be nearly inaudible. His organ can be heard on a low-down run-through of Amos Milburn's "Tears, Tears, Tears" that captures a sweet, jazzy noir West Coast blues. It adds up to Allman's best and surely most focused and cohesive solo release, and one where the template can hopefully be repeated in less time than it took this to appear.

Disappointing

Pinkus Aurellius,

Disappointing.

I LOVE Gregg Allman. I have every Gregg Allman album, oddball song, bootleg, etc. I have every Allman Brothers album. I am a huge music fan and understand T Bone's place in the industry, but I've got to tell you, when a producer makes you conscious that it's his work instead of enhancing and drawing out the talent of the artist, he has failed at his job. This is an acceptable album because of Allman, but it should be advertised as a T Bone Burnett album featuring Gregg Allman, not a Gregg Allman album. Vocals are great and it's hard not to enjoy significant parts of the record, but music lacks the urgent passion of Gregg's band. It's layered with calculated jazz tinged backing instead of the raw blues that are Gregg Allman's calling card.

It wouldn't be accurate to say the album is bad. It's not. What it is however, is disappointing. Gregg's solo output is rare. When we're blessed with a new release, one would hope for better.

About Gregg Allman

Gregg Allman's most visible contribution to rock music is as lead singer, organist, and songwriter with the Allman Brothers Band, founded by his brother Duane (d. 1971) in 1969. He never threatened to eclipse the band that carries his family name, but he has found occasional success and popularity with his solo work, which is distinctly different, more soulful, and less focused on high-wattage virtuosity.

Allman's instrument is the organ, and he is most effective, when he is in top form, as a singer. His first instrument, ironically enough, was the guitar, and he took it up before his older brother Duane did. But Duane learned it better and quickly eclipsed Gregg. Where Gregg did excel, however, was on the organ and as a singer (a role Duane was never comfortable with), which proved important but not at the center of a group that became famous for its 40-minute instrumental jams and three-hour sets. Through their early efforts, in bands like the Allman Joys and the Hour Glass, they shared the spotlight, with Duane taking the lengthy solos and Gregg fronting the band and offering Booker T. Jones-type keyboard playing. Liberty Records signed the Hour Glass and tried making Gregg into the focus of their efforts during the late '60s, but it never quite worked.

When the Allman Brothers were organized, the flashy (and vital) instrumental moments belonged to his brother and Dickey Betts and, later still, Warren Haynes. Gregg's songs, however, including "Whipping Post" and "Midnight Rider," were among the group's notable originals during its classic period, 1969-1972. Beginning with Brothers and Sisters, Betts' songwriting and singing assumed increasing prominence.

It was during the period that Brothers and Sisters was burning up the charts that Gregg Allman emerged as a solo artist with his first album, the critically well-received hit Laid Back, which put the softer, more serious, soul- and gospel-tinged side of his work in sharper focus. A tour followed, which yielded a live album that was also a success. This first period of solo popularity was interrupted by a combination of professional and personal conflicts; the Allman Brothers Band toured extensively and struggled to come up with a follow-up to Brothers and Sisters, and Gregg Allman began a relationship with Cher, the ex-wife and singing partner of Sonny Bono, which resulted in a tumultuous series of marriages and divorces for the two. These activities were played out amid Allman's well-publicized drug problems, which culminated with his testifying against a band employee in a federal drug case, which, in turn, led to the temporary but extended dissolution of the Allman Brothers Band.

Ironically, it was during this period, in 1977, that he delivered Playin' Up a Storm, a pop-soul effort that proved to be his most accomplished and successful album. Alas, this was to be the peak of his career away from the band. His next two albums, I'm No Angel and Just Before the Bullets Fly, released at the end of the 1980s, were quickly eclipsed by the re-formed and reinvigorated Allman Brothers Band's success on-stage and on record. His 1997 release Searchin' for Simplicity and the double-CD anthology One More Try had none of the urgency or success of the band's activities. In 2009, Australia's Raven Records imprint issued a 19-track, single-disc retrospective, entitled The Solo Years 1973-1997: One More Silver Dollar, that covered the whole of Allman's solo career to that date from his years at Capricorn and Columbia. In 2011, some 14 years after his last solo album, Allman released the T-Bone Burnett-produced Low Country Blues on Rounder Records.

Allman published his autobiography, My Cross to Bear, in 2012, which was the beginning of several retrospective, or at least nostalgic, projects from the singer. Most of these came to fruition in 2014. He kicked off that year with All My Friends: Celebrating the Songs & Voice of Gregg Allman, a star-studded show in Atlanta, Georgia that was released later that year as a live DVD and CD. A few days after that show, he went to his hometown of Macon, where he gave a set that was released in 2015 as Back to Macon. Finally, the Allman Brothers Band gave a series of farewell concerts at the Beacon Theater in New York City that fall. ~ Bruce Eder

  • ORIGIN
    Nashville, TN
  • GENRE
    Rock
  • BORN
    December 8, 1947

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