By Jack Sharkey, October 23, 2017

 

Front to Back Album Review: Gregg Allman - Southern Blood

  • Released: September 8, 2017
  • Label: Rounder
  • Producer: Don Was
  • Recorded at FAME Studios, Muscle Shoals and Blackbird, Nashville 

 

Four and a half out of Five Play Buttons

   

 

I often attributed my general state of moroseness and less-than-positive outlook on life to the inordinate amount of time I spent listening to the Gregg Allman and the Allman Brothers Band during my early formative years. A sweet and easy life this man did not live and that was beautifully reflected in Allman’s work over the years, but there's something resoundingly positive and happily aligned within the music in Southern Blood. There's sadness of course, this is a record by a dying man, but the message you'll take away from it all is basically, it's been a good life. It’s difficult to objectively review a post-humus album (Allman died May 21, 2017), but the fact that this is a nearly flawless record makes that all the easier. I caught one of Allman’s final live performances in Nashville last year and he was frail and obviously in poor health, but it was  a great show nevertheless and I left feeling somewhat privileged in the knowledge that I would most likely never see him perform again.

 

Gregg Allman - Southern Blood

Southern Blood was recorded in a little over a week in March 2016 at FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, with the masterful Don Was in the producer's chair. It is a beautifully recorded album and it’s so very nice to hear a record that was crafted with the listener in mind. I would give this album 3 Play Buttons just on the recording and mix alone.

 

The opening track – the only original Allman tune on the set – is a stunning farewell from a man who has lived a life he is fully aware is about to end. There is no pity, there is no bargaining, and there is no bitterness. There is fear and regret but mostly there is simple resignation and a frank recollection of who the man was and who he will continue to be long after he is forgotten. As we all face our own mortality, we’d do a lot worse than to take Allman’s words in My Only True Friend to heart.

 

It feels like home is just around the bend.

I’ve got so much left to give but I’m running out of time my friend…

 

The opening track is followed by a trio of tunes (Once I Was, Going Going Gone and Black Muddy River) that continue Allman’s farewell, but the record is no simple downer – it’s a thoughtful and emotional sharing and therein lies its brilliance.

 

With the exception of the opening track, Southern Blood is a collection of tunes written by others but they are all owned by Allman. Lowell George's Willin’ has been part of the American musical lexicon for over forty years, but Allman’s plaintive reading made me listen to the song for the first time all over again – this is the power of a true singer, even if that singer’s instrument is weak and ravaged by disease.

 

Southern Blood is not a record for everyone. Longtime fans will surely love this album, but music fans and other humans who are simply passing through on their way to somewhere else might want to take some time and listen to what’s being said here. And please do your ears a favor and listen to this gorgeous sounding record in as high resolution and on as good a system as you possible can.

 

 

Listened via Tidal streaming on LS50W.