Probably not a shock to anyone that in my current mood, I’m playing a lot of blues. For those who are interested, my tastes lean to Chicago blues, especially stuff from Chess Records. Muddy Waters, Otis Spann, Little Walter, Willie Dixon, Howlin’ Wolf, those guys are gods to me.
But I am surprised to be caring about a Gregg Allman album after all these years, because I never even bothered to listen to his solo stuff after that first album, which I do still enjoy. When I heard his new album was produced by T Bone Burnett, I figured I should at least check it out and since I like almost everything Burnett’s produced, I knew I’d like this one.
It’s called Low Country Blues and it’s Allman’s first solo album in 14 years, recorded immediately after he received a liver transplant last year. Burnett sent him a bunch of songs to choose from and these are the ones that made it to the album (listed with the original writers):
- Floating Bridge (Sleepy John Estes)
- Little By Little (Junior Wells)
- Devil Got My Woman (Skip James)
- I Can’t Be Satisfied (Muddy Waters)
- Blind Man (Bobby Bland)
- Just Another Rider (Gregg Allman & Warren Haynes)
- Please Accept My Love (BB King)
- I Believe I’ll Go Back Home (Traditional)
- Tears Tears Tears (Amos Milburn)
- My Love is Your Love (Samuel Maghett)
- Checking On My Baby (Otis Rush)
- Rolling Stone (Traditional)
Some you may recognize, many you won’t.
The back-up band is Dr. John on piano, Doyle Bramhall II on guitar, Dennis Crouch on acoustic bass and Jay Bellerose on drums.
The first song is acoustic blues and I found myself thinking, there’s that trademark Burnett sound, he’s getting close to self-parody here. But it turns out that the album is virtual tour through a variety of blues styles. Blind Man has a big horn section and smokes, as any proper Bobby Blue Bland cover should. Please Accept My Love should remind you of classic New Orleans. And so on.
If Allman had been making records like this all along, I never would have lost interest in him. I’m glad he’s back.
I’ve also been revisiting a favorite, extremely obscure favorite of mine from 1973, Islands by Cyrus Faryar.
This is a beautiful, genre-defying piece of work, some folk, some rock, a backing band that included Don Preston (from the Mothers of Invention) and Collin Walcott (from Oregon) and produced by the great John Simon. Stop by my house, I’ll play it for you sometime.
From Faryar, I always segue to Tim Buckley, almost always Buzzin’ Fly from the Happy Sad album, when he was just starting to stretch from folk into something of his own invention, his amazing voice and deceptively simple lyrics. Or if I’m in a seriously weird mood, I’ll jump up to Sefronia, his next to last album.
And then ….