Allman Brothers – Down in Texas ’71 (review)

Allman Brothers Band  – Down in Texas ’71 (Allman Brothers Band Records)

It’s like cross-breeding your music for the finest possible strain —Duane Allman on his band’s progress to that point

Fans of the Allman Brothers are getting a treat as the band’s own label is issuing Down in Texas ’71, an archival live concert recording done at the Austin Municipal Auditorium, showcasing the original lineup at their zenith, just 31 days before brother Duane’s untimely passing.

The first thing you notice is that the band is even tighter than they were during their classic Live at the Fillmore concerts – and it make sense too: six months had passed, and the band had played a ton of shows together since then – they were a well-oiled machine.

There’s something about the quality of this recording that you actually feel closer to the music.  It’s not pristine like Fillmore, and there are times when the audio drops out.  Yet, there’s an analog warmness that bathes these tracks, giving them more of a small club feel than a big arena.

The set opens with “Statesboro Blues,” already in progress.  Once the engineer gets the mix right, you hear the band cooking, right out of the gate.  The keyboard and bass are more prominent than the Fillmore version, and Duane’s slide work is razor sharp.  That gives way to a chugging rendition of “Trouble No More” – everyone is just in sync. 

“Don’t Keep Me Wonderin’” shows brother Gregg in fine, soulful voice, while Duane’s slide work is like a man possessed.  Before Elmore James’ “Done Somebody Wrong,” Duane tells the crowd that they have to move back from the stage or the Fire Marshall will stop the show.  He says, “it’s a bummer, I know,” before putting a dig in – “you know the Fire Marshall?  The cats that can’t get jobs as policemen.”  

Listening to Duane, it’s easy to take for granted his work on the slide guitar.  He makes it seem to effortless – trust me, it’s not.

This gives way to a second James’ song, “One Way Out” – here Gregg switches to electric piano, which adds a different element not heard on the Eat a Peach version.  Dickey lays down a blazing solo, that borders on metal, the way he tears off licks.  

On the Betts’ instrumental,“In Memory of Elizabeth Reed,” the band is absolutely on fire.  Unfortunately, guest musician Juicy Carter is heard prominently here – his sax is either not in tune or he’s playing in some other key.  Yet, even with this distraction, the performance is other-worldly.

Listening to this concert, it’s clear the band was absolutely peaking – after years of live performances, they knew each other..  Where this lineup would’ve gone from here?  No one knows.

As a bonus, there’s an audio interview with Berry Oakley and Duane Allman.  Even though it’s not the best quality, the tape speeds up and slows down often, it’s still a rare opportunity to actually hear these two talk.  Oakley is jovial as he takes questions about their upcoming Fillmore album’s release, while Duane seems more contemplative.  At one point, the interviewer asks if he has any more session work planned and he replies “I’m a little past that now.”  

Proceeds from the sale of Down in Texas ’71 will benefit The Big House, the Allman Brothers Museum in Macon, Georgia.  —Tony Peters