Veteran musician releases All My Friends: Celebrating the Songs & Voice of Gregg Allman
Gregg Allman has enjoyed what most people would agree is an extraordinary career.
His first real taste of success came more than 40 years ago with the early recordings of the Allman Brothers Band, the quintessential southern blues/rock band he co-founded with his late brother Duane in 1969.
He continues to enjoy success with that band today, still playing to packed houses virtually everywhere they go.
Allman has also enjoyed a successful solo career, releasing close to a dozen live and studio recordings, the most recent of which, 2011’s Low Country Blues, topped the blues charts, went top five on Billboard’s rock charts and earned the 66-year-old Rock and Roll Hall of Fame member a Grammy nomination.
Allman’s voice is one of the most easily recognized voices in rock, a soulful, bluesy growl that originates deep within his soul.
And, although he’s had some major health issues, the most serious of which culminated in a liver transplant in 2010, he still has the chops to deliver the goods on stage, whether he’s behind the microphone or behind his signature Hammond B3 organ.
That he’s still got what it takes to hold an audience was apparent to anyone fortunate enough to attend a once in a lifetime concert event in January of this year at the Fox Theatre in Atlanta.
And it will be apparent to anyone who acquires a copy of that concert, released just last week on CD and DVD.
All My Friends: Celebrating the Songs & Voice of Gregg Allman, features more than two dozen songs from that Atlanta show, performed by Allman and a stellar group of supporting players that includes his Allman Brothers bandmates and more than a dozen other special guests.
Taj Mahal, Keb’ Mo’, Dr. John, Sam Moore, John Hiatt, Susan Tedeschi and Vince Gill are among those who came together to celebrate Allman’s career.
Allman, it should be noted, does not perform on every track.
For much of this show it was Allman’s friends who took centre stage to celebrate the man and his music. And in the vast majority of cases they more than held up their end.
The tone is set right off the top with a killer version of Come And Go Blues by Allman Brothers bandmate Warren Haynes.
You get more of the same on the next track, End Of The Line, which features Haynes and another Allman Brothers bandmate Derek Trucks. Trucks and wife Susan Tedeschi keep the momentum going on one of my all-time Allman Brothers tracks, Stand Back.
One good track follows another for most of the set.
Allman’s son Devon joins former Wet Willie frontman Jimmy Hall and pedal steel blues player Robert Randolph for a wicked version of You Can’t Lose What You Never Had.
Seventy-eight-year-old soul/R&B legend Sam Moore of Sam & Dave fame, aces Please Call Home.
The ever-reliable Keb’ Mo’ delivers the goods once again on Just Another Rider. Dr. John, Train’s Pat Monaghan and Widespread Panic also come out on top.
Trace Adkins, one of several country artists to appear on the record, goes one for two. He fares well on I’m No Angel but doesn’t quite have the chops for Trouble No More. It’s not that it’s bad, it’s just not great.
Vince Gill does a nice job on Multi-Colored Lady, as does Monahan and Martina McBride on Can You Fool.
Eric Church seems very much at home on both Ain’t Wastin’ Time No More Time and Win, Lose or Draw.
Two of the album’s highlights are duets by Allman and Jackson Browne, the first on Browne’s These Days, the second on Allman’s Melissa, which is just plain gorgeous.
Another highlight is a version of Midnight Rider which features Allman, Vince Gill and Zac Brown.
For hardcore Allman Brothers fans, the two tracks that will likely make this set are the two tracks that feature, who else, the Allman Brothers Band, an almost 11-minute version of Dreams and a 13-minute version of Whipping Post that made me want to stand up and cheer.
They bring it all home with a version of Will The Circle Be Unbroken that brings everybody into the mix.
This set is just about everything I expected it would be when I first saw the promo for it. Big keyboards, big vocals, big guitars, big heart.
Can’t help but wonder what Duane would have thought.
(Rating 4 out of 5 stars)
Doug Gallant, a reporter with The Guardian, writes his music review column for The Guardian every week. He welcomes comments from readers at firstname.lastname@example.org or 629-6000, ext. 6057.