THE BEAUTIFULLY GRIZZLED SOUL OF THE BROTHERS
TURNS 61 TOMORROW
Gregg Allman has always sounded older than the hills. His voice is caked in river silt and bathtub whiskey, sleepless nights and even rougher dawns. It's a sound that goes way beyond workingman's friendly, taking us down into the valley of true bluesmen and new age romantics, communicators of shared pain and fleeting happiness. That he's also an indestructibly great musician, pounding the keys with a mixture of subtle complexity, barrelhouse roughness and surprising tenderness (and he ain't a bad guitarist either), only adds to the man's residing substance. Born in Nashville, Tennessee in 1947, as Gregg moves into his sixties, especially after recent health scares, we're awful damn glad he's still around. The Allman Brothers Band is an American institution, a doctoral level seminar in jazz-blues-rock each time they step on a stage or into a studio. What they've wrought, with Gregg Allman firmly at the wheel since their inception, is unique, rousing and pleasantly blue-collar despite their occasional highfalutin excursions. A very happy birthday to you, sir.
We begin our Gregg-erly salute with a fantastic solo reading of "Come And Go Blues," made all the more affecting by the splinters and dings Allman leaves in while he whittles.
We scoot over to the Fillmore East on September 23, 1970 for "Whipping Post" from an unaired PBS special. Impassioned sort of covers the feeling in Gregg's voice and the overall surge of the Brothers on this one.
Though fully capable of filling every single minute they've got on any tune, the Allmans can also nail things dead in just a few minutes, such as this fiery "You Don't Love Me" from a Letterman performance. It'll probably make you sigh like we did when you see Dickey and Woody wrestling notes from their axes.
Gregg is often at his finest in bittersweet waters like this beautifully broken acoustic version of "Melissa" from 1990.
The Brothers kind of own the Beacon Theatre in NYC, and this crisp, lean take on "Midnight Rider" from 2003 shows why.
We blow our final birthday kiss to Mr. Allman with a Saturday night in Macon, Georgia in 1973, the survivors putting their shoulders into Elmore James and blowing Southern soul into every note.