Album Review – Gregg Allman’s “Southern Blood”
The Allman Brothers weren’t just an American band, they were an American musical institution. They were one of those bands where if you somehow erased their legacy from the history books, the entire makeup of music would be completely different than it is today, and in gravely adverse ways. And not just in Southern rock, but in blues, jam band music, country, and rock & roll. From Southern rebels in the 70’s in their football jerseys and cutoffs, to shit kickers, bikers, heavy metal riff hounds and even jazz cats, the Allman Brothers abided and influenced like few others. There isn’t a musician out there worth their salt that won’t list the Allmans as at least a secondary influence.
That’s why when The Allman Brothers Band announced its official retirement, it wasn’t such a shock to the system. The band has been such a proving ground and farm system, and spawned so many other bands and artists over the years, the music was still out there and in so many different incarnations and side projects that it would be impossible for the amps to stop carrying the echo of their indelible Southern harmonies.
The Allman Brothers Band was like its own genre. Dickey Betts, Berry Oakley, and later to a new generation with Butch Trucks, Warren Haynes, and Gov’t Mule, everywhere you turned in music, there was someone happening that you could draw a direct line back to The Allman Brothers from. And after the tragic passing of his brother Duane, Gregg Allaman was the patriarch of it all. As long as Gregg Allman was still alive, the Allman Brothers Band could be regenerated. Until he was gone.
Gregg Allman knew his time was finite. And though we had our suspicions, Gregg was too proud to admit it, and too humble to want to be doted on. So when he passed, it wasn’t entirely a surprise, but it was no less of a shock to the system. And like other recently-passed music legends of late such as David Bowie and Glen Campbell, Gregg Allman had the time to ponder his own passing, and put that ponderance upon his own mortality into his music, and say goodbye why he still had the capacity.
I don’t know if Gregg Allman’s final album Southern Blood will go on to birth any iconic songs like his efforts with the Allman Brothers did, or even some of his solo stuff like “I’m No Angel” and the second coming of “Midnight Rider.” If nothing else, we get a really great Gregg Allman version of Little Feat’s “Willin”. But nonetheless, Southern Blood makes for just about the perfect epitaph for a legendary man of music. Executed with incredibly-rich tones and compositions, and capturing Gregg’s voice without a single hint of weakness or pain aside from when those emotions that are meant to come through the lyrics, Gregg Allman takes his final bow not with a whimper, but with a resounding exhale.
Lets face it, many posthumous albums are met with favorable reception because what’s the point of being critical to someone who is no longer around? And the pain of the loss also makes the moments of a posthumous effort that much more poignant, especially for an iconic voice, allowing little imperfections or poor decisions to be overlooked. Southern Blood is no masterpiece, and aside from the opening song co-written by Allman, it’s material we’ve heard before. But the effort and love that went into this album recorded at the legendary FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals with no expense spared—including bringing in horns, secondary players, and backup singers—results in a richly-textured effort worthy enough to be called the final work from someone with the weight behind their name as heavy as Gregg Allman.
His take on The Grateful Dead’s “Black Muddy River,” and Bob Dylan’s “Going Going Gone” might be better than the originals. Dylan and the Dead weren’t especially known for doing their absolute best in the studio. Gregg Allman and The Allman Brothers Band were. Actually, before Southern Blood came about, Gregg was supposed to record an album of all original material. But amid his declining health, an album of mostly cover songs deeply adored by Gregg was decided upon. Along with his backing band including guitarist Scott Sharrard, Southern Blood also sees appearances by steel guitar player Greg Leisz, Buddy Miller, The McCrary Sisters, and Jackson Browne, who is also the composer of the final track, “Song For Adam.” The album was produced by Don Was.
But it’s the one original from the album, the beginning song “My Only True Friend,” that really takes Southern Blood from truly good, to terribly heartbreaking. Whether about the road as the song seems to say, or about Gregg Allman’s passing from this Earth and leaving behind a legacy of music, it speaks deeply to the sorrow felt by every Gregg Allman fan, however dedicated or fleeting, and is just about the perfect way to say a final goodbye.
Gregg Allman’s legacy was well secured before even a note was sung or played on Southern Blood. He didn’t owe us anything more. But like he did for half a century, Gregg Allman delivered, and not just for himself, but for one final hurrah of The Allman Brothers legacy that now has a life of its own, beyond Gregg and Duane, influencing artists, and entertaining fans for many more half centuries to come.
1 3/4 Guns Up (7.5/10)
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December 24, 2017 @ 10:12 am
The first two studio albums and especially the live At Fillmore East were game changers in my mind. It said as far as white boys playing the blues, this is in our DNA. The English bands may have reintroduced us to our own Blues music, but no matter the musicianship, no matter the depth of study, they will never have the same gut level feel for this music. Their version of One Way Out has always been one of my favorites since it was released.
December 24, 2017 @ 8:43 pm
Listen to Crossroads by Eric Clapton, then listen to Crossroads by Lynyrd Skynyrd. You start to see why living the music, emotion and feeling are more important than being technically proficient. Then, listen to T for Texas by Lynyrd Skynyrd. You can’t do blues better than that. British blues guys could hit all the right notes, but it never sounded right. The Allman Brothers hit all the right notes. They were the first concert I ever saw. I saw them five or six times and loved it each time. Awesome.
December 24, 2017 @ 8:44 pm
December 25, 2017 @ 5:30 am
Interesting read on the two songs we were talking about.
Do the songs “One Way Out” by the Allman Brothers & “T For Texas” by Lynyrd Skynryd sound the same musically?
Gavin Mack, Wanna be rock star that knows way too much rock music trivia
Answered Jan 6 2015
They do sound very similar, with that southern rock blues style that both bands employed using slide guitars and growly vocals. Both songs employ a slide guitar riff that is characteristic of the song and neither song is original to the bands referenced here. Blue Yodel No. 1 (T for Texas) was written and originally recorded by Jimmie Rodgers in 1927. Lynyrd Skynyrd’s version scarcely resembles the original, but it does come close to Waylon Jennings version released on “Waylon Live” in 1976. Coincidentally, this is around the same time that Skynyrd started performing this song.
“One Way Out” was originally recorded by Sonny Boy Williamson and Elmore James in the early ’60s and released originally by the Allman Brothers in 1972 on their album “Eat A Peach”. It was recorded by the Allmans at their famous Fillmore East concerts prior to Duane Allman’s tragic death in a motorcycle accident. It has since appeared in its original (for the Allmans) form on expanded and deluxe versions of the Fillmore Concerts. Their version stays somewhat close to the intent of the original recording and may have been an inspiration to Waylon Jennings and Lynyrd Skynyrd in crafting their arrangements.
Jimmie Rodgers was a Mississippi native who was influenced heavily by some of the earliest blues performers. Many Delta bluesmen were influenced by Jimmie Rodgers and have said so, though I don’t recall reading anywhere that Sonny Boy had publicly said that. Given the popularity of Jimmie Rodgers at the time that Sonny Boy was just hitting twenty years old, and the fact that both were Mississippi natives, it is likely that Rodgers was an influence on him as well. This is why I find it interesting people seem to have a need to put music into ridged boundaries to define genres. To think music has self generated into neat little boxes is a fallacy.
December 24, 2017 @ 10:15 am
I think I’d give his 2011 blues album Low Country Blues the edge over this one, but it’s a fine album, nonetheless. And his version of I Love the Life I Live on this album is a great example of what a superb blues singer he was.
Sir Adam the Great
December 25, 2017 @ 11:30 am
Same here. I picked up LCB a few years ago (around Muscle Shoals coincidentally) and fell in love with it. T-bone Burnette’s swampy-in-a-good-way production belied the fact that it was recorded in L.A. Southern Blood is an amazing swan song, and ‘Song for Adam’ with it’s choke-up near the end is heck of a send off. Godspeed Brother Gregg.
December 25, 2017 @ 12:39 pm
I’m going to argue in favor of Southern Blood over Low Country Blues (which was excellent). For me, its the horns that make this record. Gregg’s voice goes so well with horns and they are all over this record. Rumor has it that Gregg wanted to add horns to the Allman Brothers but was always voted down by the rest of the band.
December 25, 2017 @ 1:42 pm
Fair enough. For me, I think it comes down to what I loved the most about Gregg Allman and that was his strength as a blues singer. Just makes me feel warm all over. And my favorite moments on the new one are the more bluesier ones. But yes, it’s a fine album. And it amazes me that there didn’t seem to much of a drop off in his voice in his latter years, as ill as he was.
December 26, 2017 @ 11:33 am
I’m with ya there, Jack. I really like Southern Blood but I enjoy Low Country Blues slightly more. Probably because it has more blues in it and even more so because there’s a Magic Sam cover in there.
December 24, 2017 @ 10:53 am
“Come and Go Blues” is one of his best and often overlooked.
December 24, 2017 @ 12:36 pm
Such a strong musician. Great, honest lyrics. Gregg is a strong current, and still pulls.
December 24, 2017 @ 1:35 pm
I love the final compliation that Gregg chose for his final work. I listen to it over and over as it speaks of Gregg’s soul and legacy. THANK YOU to all that helped make this and leaving Gregg’s raw emotions in the final song.
December 24, 2017 @ 1:57 pm
I bought this CD the day it was released. I drove around listening to it long enough for a second run thru. Covers or not, I cried the entire time. Knowing he chose THOSE to say goodbye to US with? Oy….
December 24, 2017 @ 2:32 pm
I was lucky enough to see the Allman Brothers Band twice. The first time I saw them, Dickey Betts was still in the band and Derek Trucks had just started playing with them and they were unbelievably good. Gregg Allman was one of a kind and it’s really sad that he’s gone but its comforting to know that he’s been reunited with his big brother. This is a pretty solid record overall. God bless you Gregg, you are missed!
December 24, 2017 @ 3:20 pm
The first track is a real heartbreaker.
December 24, 2017 @ 3:33 pm
I saw the Brothers many times, but years back in Macon my buddies and I saw them at the Macon City Auditorium. We stayed at what used to be the Hilton, and so did the Brothers. Rode the elevator with Jaimoe, Dickie ate supper at the table beside us (after he left two young “hippie chicks” snatched his coffee cup, giggling they each took a sip of what was left like it was imbued with some powerful mojo, these darned kids today). Great show, of course, and afterwards we hit the hotel bar (naturally), my buddies sat down and I went up to order drinks. Chatted with this nice guy who was sitting at the corner of the bar for a few, ordered the drinks, went back to the table and told my friends, “Y’all want to come talk to Gregg?”. No need to say what their answer was, after the, ” Are you sh*****g?”. We talked to him at least an hour before others caught on and began crowding and wanting autographs and such. Like I said earlier, a really nice guy. One of my buddies is a great carpenter and does wood carving on the side, and had on a necklace he had made. Gregg commented how much he liked it, so my bud took it off and gave it too him. Greg immediately gave him something back. A reporter came up wanting to do a interview ad Gregg told him he’d have to wait until the bar closed, “I’m with my people and talking to them!”. Pretty cool night and, naturally, not one any of us will ever forget since we were ABB fans back in the early 1970s. PBS streamed the last album before it was out, I have no idea how many I listened to it from the website. …and the the road goes on forever…
December 24, 2017 @ 5:15 pm
Duane was already gone when I first heard ‘One Way Out’ in 1972 at a party in Waco,Texas. That slide work was unbelievable. Had to learn the slide guitar and started in 1974. Yes,Duane was gone > but he taught me southern slide from an (8) track tape called ‘Beginnings’. I still have that 1974 Ernie Ball metal slide and it stays in my old Chevy truck. (l also learned to be a more Careful Motorcycle Rider because of Duane.) I’ve been using a Jim Dunlop 202 glass slides for several years because it is lighter and faster than metal. Rem Oil on the strings works great. The Allmans’ are gone,but they left a treasure of Southern Blues/Rock for their music fans. The World quickly flies by. If you don’t know the Lord,now is the Time. *******
December 24, 2017 @ 8:14 pm
Greatest American band ever to come together.There music sounds as fresh and true as it did 45 years ago.
December 24, 2017 @ 9:20 pm
Everyone seems to blow off the fact or don’t know, the cofounding members, Duane Allman and Dickie Betts of their “band”, ( we know as “The Allman Brothers Band” today ) didn’t really come to be “The Allman Brothers Band” until cofounding member Dickie Betts, suggested, recruited Greg as the vocalist! Thank God he did, right! ( Dickie should get more respect for having such insight, too! ) After Duane was killed it fell on Gregg to keep the band name going. It’s bittersweet that this is the last album, to complete my collection, of all official “Gregg Allman” releases!
December 24, 2017 @ 10:19 pm
Great back in the day. But that was of course a long time ago.
Folks, listen to Jeremy Pinnell’s 2017 album “Ties of Blood and Affection”. You won’t hear about it from Trigger, but I guarantee you won’t regret discovering Pinnell.
December 24, 2017 @ 10:50 pm
this review was beautifully written. i need to check this album out ASAP. losing Allman and Petty so close together really kinda f*#ked this year up for me musically (not to mention the other awful stuff that went down in 2017). here’s to Greg and to a hopefully better 2018! Merry Christmas, Kyle and readers of SCM! ❤
December 25, 2017 @ 1:39 am
I’m a 40s something wife and mother…I wish I had got to see them live or have a conversation with Gregg, but I feel the music the band played deeply. I can definitely see how iconic the Allman Brothers were to music and how Gregg left a mark.
December 25, 2017 @ 1:40 am
Loveblike kerosene is a grest toe-tapper
December 25, 2017 @ 2:15 am
Yeah i totally agree that Skynyrd played those songs with way more emotion and fire then any English musician could and were just way better bands in all ways…long live Skynyrd and the Allmans and RIP Ronnie and Gregg!!
December 25, 2017 @ 2:00 pm
I bought SB 2 days ago, as was often the case many bands released at Christmas time. I haven’t listened yet, I want to give 100% of attention when I do, as a life long committed admirer of America’s greatest vocalist; Mr. Allman deserves it.
Looking at the liner photos and the last one, the sound board, B3 buttons, lights off. Powerful statement, as I believe the songs will be.
December 25, 2017 @ 5:00 pm
This is one band that will live on forever, the best band in the whole dam land …
December 26, 2017 @ 6:47 am
I don’t think a lot of people realize how strong the relationship between Gregg Allman and Jackson Browne was as they were roomies in California back before the ABB was formed. And in my humble opinion, Gregg’s version of Browne’s These Days on his Laid Back album was better than the original. How appropriate then that the last song on this album is Browne’s Song For Adam with Browne on backup vocals. Browne has said that Gregg told him the song reminded him of Duane. Take a listen to it at the 3:53 mark…you hear Gregg’s voice break when he gets to the line “Still it seems he stopped his singing in the middle of his song”. Heartbreaking. And apparently overcome with emotion, he couldn’t bring himself to record the next verse, “Well I’m not the one to say I know, but I’m hoping he was wrong.” RIP, Midnight Rider and thanks for so many great concerts and songs you gave to us.
December 26, 2017 @ 10:32 am
Thanks for the review, Trig. In my opinion, the Allman Brothers are the greatest American band and their influence can be heard everywhere as you mentioned above. Due to their longevity, they really had 3 “peaks” as a band (Filmore East w/ Duane, reformation in the early 90s, and in the 2000 when Gregg got sober and they added Derek Trucks to the lineup). Although Gregg will be missed his music will be enjoyed for generations to come.
December 27, 2017 @ 8:47 am
“You’ve given country music everything!!”
“Not everything…not yet…”