Gregg Allman, Low Country Blues (Rounder Records, 2011)
Originally published February 6, 2011
Gregg Allman's desire to get into the recording studio waned when producer Tom Dowd died in 2002*. Allman had worked with Dowd on his 1997 solo album Searching for Simplicity, as well as on Allman Brothers Band records, including Idelwild South and Where it All Begins. Allman overcame his reluctance to return to the studio when his road manager introduced him to T Bone Burnett, and Allman learned that he and Burnett shared both a respect for Tom Dowd and a love of the blues. In preparation for recording, Burnett gave Allman some blues songs to listen to and choose from. Burnett aimed high, offering Allman songs from Sleepy John Estes, B.B. King, Skip James, and Muddy Waters. When Burnett stipulated that Allman would not be able to record with his own players, that was almost a deal breaker. Thankfully, Allman accepted Burnett's terms and the musicians — including Dolye Bramhall II and Mac Rebenack, aka Dr. John — clicked, and cut the record in less than two weeks. Allman regards it as his best work yet, and found comfort in it, as he faced liver transplant surgery and recovery. His remarkable voice has, if anything, improved with age. Among the songs Allman covers is the traditional "I Believe I'll Go Back Home." Although the title refers to the return of a prodigal, it also expresses the feel of the album as a whole; Allman is completely at home with the great blues music he has loved his whole life.**
*For insight into Tom Dowd's work see "Tom Dowd and the Language of Music" in the Journey With Jesus movie review archives.
**Sources for this review include: