The first album I ever reviewed—some 33 years ago—was a Gregg Allman LP, so it's nice to circle back and write about another of his solo projects. This is his first new release in about 14 years, and in Allman's terms that's a lot of water under the bridge, including sobriety, potentially fatal illness and a liver transplant. As I wrote here, Allman has emerged in strong voice and unbroken spirit.
He has also emerged with a fine recording that stretches him outside his usual comfort zone, thanks to the efforts of producer T-Bone Burnett. For someone who has been recording and performing most of his life—or perhaps because of that—Allman has always been somewhat reluctant to move beyond what he can get by on with just his world-weary voice, and there has always been a big part of him that has been reluctant to let go of the sonic landscape he inherited from his big brother, and no one can blame him for that. Still, it's great to hear him addressing different aspects of the blues idiom—from Sleepy John Estes' opening "Floating Bridge" to a beautiful public domain song called "I Believe I'll Go Back Home." Harkening back to his radical remake of his signature composition "Midnight Rider" in 1973, Low Country Blues ends with a startling re-arrangement of Muddy Waters' "Rolling Stone" by Allman, Burnett and sideman Mac Rebennack.
There are horns on five of the 12 songs, a potent reminder of how good he always sounded fronting a band patterned after the Ray Charles model, and most of the remaining pieces feature acoustic musicians, including string wizard Colin Linden on dobro and acoustic bassist Dennis Crouch.
Not since his debut solo effort, Laid Back, has Allman sounded this focused and confident. He sounds like a man at peace, and for anyone who has followed his career for four decades that's more than enough.