Gregg Allman – Low Country Blues (CD review)

Gregg Allman – Low Country Blues (Rounder) CD review – Gregg Allman’s solo records have always played second fiddle to his work with the Allman Brothers Band.   Part of it is that most of what he does on his own is loose and low-key (he even titled one album Laid Back).  Another is the fact that the Allman Brothers always had such unbelievable players, whether it be Duane Allman & Dickey Betts, or more recently, Derek Trucks & Warren Haynes – no matter who Gregg chose for his own records, they could never live up those other guys.  Well, Low Country Blues is not your typical solo project from Gregg Allman.

This disc marks the first time, band or solo, that Allman has tackled an entire album of blues songs.  Even though the Allman Brothers would try many styles though the years, blues was their first love, so Gregg feels completely in his element here.  He also seems reenergized – this isn’t hack songwriting, it’s what he cut his teeth on: classic blues.  It doesn’t hurt that he’s finally teamed with a truly awe-inspiring guitarist in Doyle Bramhall II, hot off a tour with Eric Clapton.  Bramhall has been called the most underrated living guitarist, and here, he adds blistering solos to these tracks.

The sound of Low Country Blues is great – the sessions were helmed by T-Bone Burnett, who received high praise for his work with Robert Plant and Alison Krauss on Raising Sand.  Burnett wraps these tracks in appropriate dressings – adding thump and echo to the blues stompers, and horns to a few of the upbeat tracks. “Blind Man” has a groove straight out of a Little Willie John record and horns borrowed from Albert King, while Allman growls “I Can’t Let Her Go” as if his life depended on it.  “Checking on My Baby” is a slow-burner featuring a dirty guitar tone reminiscent of Muddy Waters’ sideman Pat Hare.

His signature Hammond organ is heard on “Little By Little.”  He does a fairly faithful version of Muddy Waters’ first hit “I Can’t Be Satisfied,” but most of the record features blues covers so obscure, you probably won’t recognize any of them.  An excellent choice of songs, great production, searing guitar work, and his best singing in years adds up to Low Country Blues being the best solo album Gregg Allman has ever done.  – Tony Peters