Low Country Blues
Guess if you’re gonna die after making your first solo record in 14 years, you better make sure it’s a good one. And make no mistake, Low Country Blues would make an excellent epitaph, but thankfully Gregg Allman is still with us, after a liver transplant shortly following the recording of this album. Produced by T Bone Burnett and featuring Dr. John on piano, Doyle Bramhall II on guitar, and Burnett’s rhythm section from Raising Sand, bassist Dennis Crouch and drummer Jay Bellerose, this collection of blues tunes from legends such as Muddy Waters, Skip James, Otis Rush, and more is a perfect example of how the right man with the right songs can create magic. Opening with the Sleepy John Estes cut “Floating Bridge,” Allman reminds us that he’s one of the greatest white blues singers this nation has birthed, and he sounds as emotive and passionate as he did playing with his brother at the Fillmore, way back when.
This record reminds you at times of the aforementioned Robert Plant/Allison Krauss Raising Sand — in large part due to the acoustic bass of Crouch and the subtle yet powerful drumming of Bellerose. But when you add the New Orleans mojo of Dr. John and the absolutely ripping guitar of Eric Clapton-band member Doyle Bramhall II, the record becomes as sweaty and earthy as a late night jam at a juke joint, a perfect mesh of tunes and players. Allman sounds haunted on Skip James’ legendary “Devil Got My Woman” (featuring Colin Linden on resonator guitar), and on moments such as Muddy’s “I Can’t Be Satisfied” or Junior Wells’ “Little by Little” he sounds 26, not 63. Allman’s prowess on the Hammond organ is used to great effect on moments such as “Rolling Stone,” and the entire album is a gorgeously recorded, almost spiritual creation.
Low Country Blues is a remarkable achievement, nearly as good as anything Allman has done in his storied career. Fortunate for us — and for Gregg Allman — this is a new beginning, not an ending. Sing it, blues man.