Gregg Allman’s new release features some of the best blue-eyed blues singing to come along in a while. Low Country Blues (Rounder), produced by T-Bone Burnett, is a collection of eleven blues standards and one new original. Allman’s voice is a sound that has enmeshed itself into the consciousness of every American rock n’ roll fan since Fillmore East in 1971. He always sounded like an old blues man, even when he was a young un’. Today, after decades of highs and lows (and a recent, new liver courtesy of the Mayo clinic), that inner blues man gets the spotlight and his voice seems right at home singing tracks like Sleepy John Estes’ “Floating Bridge” and Muddy Waters’ “Cant’ Be Satisfied.”
While it seems like every other aging pop star gets to do a blues record nowadays (exhibit A: Cyndi Lauper. Stay away from that one, kids), listening to Low Country begs the question, how come Allman didn’t get to this sooner? The Allman Brothers’ Muscle Shoals sounds are direct descendants of Delta blues inflected rock, and one of Gregg Allman’s first bands in 1960 had a regional hit with a remake of Willie Dixon’s “Spoonful” long before Clapton and company made artists from Chess Records de rigeur. Indeed, the selections here seem a perfect fit for his jagged growl and Georgia drawl.
Burnett’s production, while swampy at times with its wide open sonic spaces and generous reverb, showcases some great musicians that feed off each others ideas with soulful aplomb. There is no extended jamming here, but tight four-minute arrangements that should make public radio music programmers across the country eager to get Low Country into heavy rotation. Each song features a unique take on an old classic, and the orchestrations are a mixed bag, making the album flow along nicely, from spare and jangly acoustic guitars to full blow horn arrangements. Allman plays his signature Hammond B3, leaning into it for most of the record as has done for the last 40 years. The pleasant piano counter-point to the long organ tones come courtesy of Dr. John, long time friend and collaborator. Dr. John’s lilting piano on “Can’t Be Satisfied” brings a jaunty, New Orleans roll to the piece, a unique take on a song that has been done countless times by a countles number of artists.
Gregg Allman, “Can’t Be Satisfied”
“Just Another Rider” was co-written by long time friend, Allman Brothers guitarist and Government Mule front-man Warren Haynes (although he doesn’t play on the record). Its the lone original track on the record, and is a fitting sequel to “Midnight Rider.”
Gregg Allman, “Just Another Rider”
“Blind Man” is a rolling, Chicago bar-room number written and made popular by Bobby Bland. The horn arrangements push this one along and help to make this track one of the fullest sounding on the record.
Gregg Allman, “Blind Man”
With Low Country Blues, Gregg Allman confirms what we knew all along; that behind the blue eyes belting out “Whippin’ Post” and crooning “Melissa” lurked one of the best blues-men of our age. During his annual extended run at the Beacon Theater this March, you can be sure the set-list will include some of these modern classics.