I, along with most fans, had given up on Gregg Allman as a creative force twenty years ago. He seemed satisfied touring with whatever version of The Allman Brothers Band he could scrape together, cranking out endless versions of Whipping Post and Midnight Rider.
So, what a pleasant surprise to hear this new album. At first my hopes weren’t particularly high…only one new original song and the rest are ancient blues tunes. But thanks to Allman’s weather-beaten voice and T Bone Burnett’s production genius, this has every chance of being the top blues album of the year. Burnett has surrounded Allman with a wonderful group of players…drummer Jay Bellerose, bass player Dennis Crouch, a crack horn section, and best of all guitarist Doyle Bramhall II and piano player Mac Rebennack (aka Dr. John). Bramhall throws out some stinging solos when called upon, such as the Junior Wells hit Little By Little and Otis Rush’s Checking On My Baby. But its Dr. John who really keeps things cookin’. His piano playing is never showy, but he’s in there on every track, creating the perfect musical bed for Allman’s best vocals in years. Ol’ Gregg even gets his B-3 organ out on a couple of tunes and joins in the fun. When the horn section kicks in, such as on the New Orleans-inspired Please Accept My Love, an old B.B. King tune, all the better.
Allman’s own Just Another Rider sits comfortably alongside songs by the likes of Muddy Waters, Sleepy John Estes and Magic Sam. No doubt his recent liver transplant has given him a new lease on life.
The musicians here really sound like a band who are having fun and putting real emotion into their playing. I’d love to hear these guys live.
Listen here to Little By Little from Low Country Blues: