Southern Blood – Gregg Allman’s Swan Song
One of my first “adult” records was “The Allman Brothers – Live at Fillmore East”. I heard “Whipping Post” on the FM Underground radio station and ran out to buy that record as fast as I could. I played that double album until it had grooves. I kept up with ABB success with hits like “Laid Back’s” single “Midnight Rider” and 1987’s “I’m No Angel” Being from the Sarasota area, there is the Allman connection everywhere from Gregg living here in the early 80’s to Dickey Betts being a resident.
I personally met Gregg a couple of times on Anna Maria Island, but I wouldn’t dare to say I knew him at all. Danny Toler, beloved guitarist who played with Gregg was my neighbor and friend. I went to several shows in recent years, including Gregg coming to Sarasota at the urging of his friend, promoter Barbara Strauss and playing for the locals at Sarasota’s Sailor Circus in 2014.
June 3rd, I drove to Macon to cover the funeral. An amazing scene of thousands lined the streets of Macon to pay their respects to their musical son. Fans respectfully walked down to the cemetery and the family welcomed them. It was an experience like none I have ever seen. Gregg Allman knew who his people were and he left them with a priceless gift of music with his final work – “Southern Blood”.
From the opening track of “My Only True Friend”, you know that Gregg is going to take you on a journey of his impending death but it is not a maudlin trip. “You and I both know that the road is my only true friend” is a telling truth of his love of the road, playing music and his friends and fans. “The Road Goes on Forever” from “Midnight Rider” is a famous lyric that will be forever associated with Allman and he knows it.
His choices of cover tracks are some of his personal favorite artists and songs which range from the Grateful Dead with “Black Muddy River” to Muddy Waters, “I Love the Life I Live” of which Gregg told Dan Rather in the “The Big Interview”, when asked what music he would want at his funeral, he said “Anything by Muddy Waters”. Another song of the road is the Little Feat cover, “Willin’”. You know Allman has lived these lyrics along his road of life and is keepin’ it real.
One of the best songs of the album is a bluesy rocker “Love Like Kerosene” written by Scott Sharrard, Allman’s guitarist and friend. It is auto-biographical even if Gregg didn’t write it. It is classic Allman that is reminiscent of that rocker “Statesboro Blues”. Percy Sledge’s “Out of Left Field” is a tune that Allman is clearly making personal to the love in his life. Bob Dylan’s incredible lyrics of “Going, Going, Gone” is a reminder that Allman is leaving this earth and he knows it and is letting us know, he is a realist about it. The backround vocals give the song a bit of a gospel feel to it.
The last song of the album is appropriately a duet penned by his oldest musical friend, Jackson Browne and is a tribute to his brother Duane. Gregg & Duane met Browne in L.A. in the late 60’s as teenagers and were friends their entire lives. “Song for Adam” is the haunting yet beautiful sound of two of the iconic voices of our generation.
You have a chance to hear this album played live in its entirety at the Laid Back Festival in Atlanta which will feature The Gregg Allman Band with Devon Allman. Check out all the info at www.laidbackfestival.com
Gregg Allman photo by Vicky Sullivan / Rock the Lens Photography