Artist: Gregg Allman
Title: Southern Blood
Genre: Country/Southern Rock
Release Date: September 8, 2017
Length: 45 min.
Producer: Don Was
Personnel: Gregg Allman (Lead Vocals, Guitars, Organ), Scott Sharrard (Guitars), Steve Potts (Drums), Ronald Johnson (Bass Guitar), Peter Levin (Pianos, Keyboards, Vibraphone), Marc Franklin (Trumpet, Flugelhorn), Jay Collins (Saxophones, Flute), Art Edmaiston (Saxophones), and Marc Quinones (Percussion)
Additional Personnel: Greg Leisz (Pedal Steel Guitar), Buddy Miller (Backing Vocals), Beverly Ann McCrary (Backing Vocals), Deborah Dianne McCrary (Backing Vocals), Regina Avonette McCrary (Backing Vocals), Alfreda Antionette McCrary (Backing Vocals), and Jackson Browne (Vocals on “Song for Adam”)
Recorded at legendary FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, a place important to the history of Southern music, and even important to the history of the Allman Brothers Band, Southern Blood is the eighth and final studio album release from the great Gregg Allman. Sadly, he died on May 27, 2017, from complications from liver cancer.
At sixty-eight years old in 2016, when Allman and his backing band made this record, Gregg Allman knew he didn’t have much time to live. Old age probably wasn’t going to kill him, he was beginning to realize, his ever-impending cancer would. Yet the veteran singer, multi-instrumentalist, and songwriter decided not to worry about that too much. He declined radiation treatment because he feared it would damage his vocal chords. Before he died, Gregg Allman wanted to leave his family, friends, and fans a parting gift, a collection of songs that looks back on Allman’s life and looks forward into the mortally unknown. Death was coming for Gregg Allman, and he wanted to meet it with a song, just as he had always met life.
So that’s what he did. Though he didn’t have the strength and time to write an album length batch of new songs, he and his guys wrote one original, album opener “My Only True Friend,” and picked nine other tunes to cover that fit Allman’s mood to a tee. Songs like Bob Dylan’s woefully underrated “Going, Going, Gone.” These tracks reminisce and remember, without bitterness, but with some melancholy, and even a bit of optimism. It’s not an unrealistic look back, no rose-colored glasses here, and it’s not an epic search for meaning. It’s simply a thoughtful adieu.
Artists rarely get the chance to say goodbye like this. When they do, like Bowie did with Blackstar, it means so very much to us, the fans. Their music means a lot to us, and, sometimes, by extension, so do they. Southern Blood is not the magnum opus Bowie’s final valediction was. Neither is it meant to be. Rather, it’s a fitting farewell from one of the most important musicians in the worlds of rock ‘n’ roll and country music, unassuming, simple, and beautiful, just like Gregg Allman’s music always was.
I’m going to give Gregg Allman’s Southern Blood an 86%.
Like Chuck Berry’s CHUCK, also from this year, it’s great to actually have a last release like this from Gregg Allman.