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Gregg Allman – Low Country Blues

Gregg Allman, Low Country Blues

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 5 out of 5

GREGG Allman’s first solo album in 14 years may have been a long time in coming but it’s well worth the wait.

A collection of no-nonsense blues offerings, Low Country Blues comes with production work and guitar support from T Bone Burnett and Dr. John on piano, as well as guitarist Doyle Bramhall II, and a go-to rhythm section featuring bassist Dennis Crouch and drummer Jay Bellerose.

The song selection, meanwhile, tips its hat to Allman’s early heroes from Skip James to Muddy Waters, via BB King and Otis Rush. It’s a blues album to savour… but one that’s not soaked in depressive tendencies. Indeed, it’s lively, vibrant and just a really, really good listen.

Allman’s vocals, meanwhile, are as crisp, lived in and emotive as we’ve come to expect from one of music’s true legends – amazing when you think of his career, his life and the obstacles that even threatened to scupper the recording of this album!

Like any genuine bluesman, Allman’s own life has been coloured by myriad triumphs and too many tragedies.

Low Country Blues was initially slated for a mid-2010 release, but that plan changed when Gregg, who had long battled chronic Hepatitis C, was notified that he was a candidate for a liver transplant.

Hence, in June 2010 he entered the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Florida where he successfully underwent the difficult surgery.

But he credits the knowledge that he had just made one of the defining albums of his recording career as being the best medicine, giving him the inner strength to fully heal.

That album thrives on the rapid bond that developed between Allman and Burnett, and which enabled Allman’s own acoustic guitar expertise and trademark Hammond B-3 organ to cook up an earthy and atmospheric musical stew infused with gritty R&B muscle, spooky Southern psychedelia and greasy deep soul grooves.

The highlights fly thick and fast. Album opener Floating Bridge (a cover of the John Estes classic) is a great opener, laidback and befitting its Deep South roots. You can’t help but become enamoured of its lazy beat, slinky piano chords and husky, lived-in vocals.

The R’n’B element is evident on Little By Little, which develops into a fine Hammond and electric guitar duet, while Allman’s take on Skip James’s Devil Got My Woman is a hangdog acoustic gem.

I Can’t Be Satisfied is, conversely, deeply satisfying and a real treat, Blind Man a playfully downbeat slice of blues that is also shot through with jazz and soul qualities, and Just Another Rider another vibrant Northern Soul blues moment that unfolds at a lively pace.

Elsewhere, there’s a great deal of romanticism and optimism surrounding the blues and brass fusion that is Allman’s cover of BB King’s Please Accept My Love (another favourite), and angst, regret and dogged hope in his love-lorn take on Amos Milburn’s Tears, Tears, Tears (which also includes a great Dr John moment).

Album closer Rolling Stone, meanwhile, is an absolute humdinger to send you off with a feeling of immense satisfaction – dropping one of the most compelling back-beats on the LP, one of Allman’s gruffest vocals, and a fine combination of guitars and pianos.

Hence, while Low Country Blues may not be doing anything radical or different (and by virtue of this fact doesn’t offer too many surprises), it’s consistently brilliant and a real treat from one of music’s true greats.

Download picks: Floating Bridge, Rolling Stone, Please Accept My Love, Tears, Tears, Tears, Blind Man, Devil Got My Woman

Track listing:

  1. Floating Bridge
  2. Little By Little
  3. Devil Got My Woman
  4. I Can’t Be Satisfied
  5. Blind Man
  6. Just Another Rider
  7. Please Accept My Love
  8. I Believe I’ll Go Back Home
  9. Tears, Tears, Tears
  10. My Love Is Your Love
  11. Checking On My Baby
  12. Rolling Stone