Release Date: Jan 18, 2011
Record label: Rounder
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Southern Rock
Click to listen to Gregg Allman's Low Country Blues Gregg 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.
With his long hair, beard and battered features, Gregg Allman is the archetypical survivor, a hero with the Allman Brothers Band in the 70s, and a man whose famously wild career has involved induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, six marriages and a liver transplant. Amazingly, both his distinctive voice and his Hammond keyboard work have remained intact, as shown on his first solo album in 14 years, in which he's helped by an impressive backing band that includes the album's producer T-Bone Burnett on guitar, and Dr John on piano. This is, for the most part, a no-nonsense blues set, with tributes to early heroes from Skip James to Muddy Waters, BB King and Otis Rush, and it succeeds both because of Allman's vocals and Burnett's varied, uncluttered production work.
Despite 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.
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.
Crafted with help from Dr. John and producer T Bone Burnett (Elvis Costello, the Crazy Heart soundtrack), Allman’s latest, Low Country Blues, pays homage to the music he fell in love with as a youngster. The 63-year-old singer’s craggy vocals on a slow-burning version of Skip James’ ”Devil Got My Woman” serve as a reminder that his youth is far behind him, though his world-weary air perfectly fits the material.
An idiosyncratic history lesson from an old master. Ninian Dunnett 2011 With the new century the blue-eyed boys of the 60s blues revival have been turning into old bluesmen themselves, and the memorialising of their heroes seems to be a later-life rite of passage. Gregg Allman’s history lesson may not match his finest recordings, but it’s a diverting blues miscellany from an undoubted master.
Unlike the voices of so many alternative rock and country radio stars who sound so much alike, Gregg Allman’s voice has always been instantly recognizable. Allman is on a list with singers from Johnny Mathis to Bob Dylan to Tony Bennett to Willie Nelson whose work is legendary because there is no mistaking whose voice is coming through the speakers. And these guys are legendary for another reason; they’re all still alive.
Soulful and earthy in a way few are, scraped and shaped by hard luck, bad love, and the devil's music, Gregg Allman's voice has carried him through decades of solo recordings and all incarnations of the mighty Allman Brothers Band. On Low Country Blues, it's rightly his instrument of choice, a weapon of mass seduction. "I'd rather be the devil than be that woman's man," he growls on Skip James' "Devil Got My Woman," typical of Low Country's lesser-known titles from better-known bluesmen (Muddy Waters' "I Can't Be Satisfied").