“T Bone is a one of kind dude,” that was the response when Gregg Allman was asked to describe legendary producer T Bone Burnett, who enticed Allman to return to the studio for the first time in 14 years. Low Country Blues is the magical result of the collaboration between the Midnight Rider and the man currently with the Midas touch for roots music production. Burnett, with a recent Grammy win for album of the year with Raising Sand from Robert Plant and Allison Krauss, is a man on a mission to resurrect American roots music and seems to be channeling the spirits of Sam Phillips and Leonard Chess. This project, which began as a tribute to the classic bluesmen that influenced both Allman and Burnett, and a possible swan song for Allman who was facing transplant surgery, plays out as the redemption of a man brought back from the brink of death or worse.
Burnett sets Allman up with his prized group of session players (including guitarist Doyle Bramhall II, upright bassist Dennis Crouch, astounding drummer Jay Bellerose, and special guest Dr. John on piano) not only to allow his vocals to shine, but also to bare his soul.
From the first track “Floating Bridge,” which recounts the spectacle of a man bent on his own self destruction, you get the notion this isn’t your average “blues album,” but rather a portrait of Allman’s life after forty years on the road. Reportedly recorded in only eleven days, Burnett kept Allman to two or three vocal takes in order to capture his raw emotional intensity, and desperate energy. Tracks “I Can’t Be Satisfied” and “Blind Man” speak to the heart of his self-professed gypsy soul, and are delivered on a bed of ferocious groove, giving Allman room to play out each lyric with freshness and fire. Allman’s trademark B3 playing is featured on Junior Wells’ “Little By Little” recalling Jimmy Smith in his prime. The take of Skip James’ “Devil Got My Woman” has got to be one of the scariest blues songs ever. The album’s one original song “Just Another Rider,” written by Allman and long-time Allman Brothers Band member Warren Haynes, is given an arrangement right out of the Stax play book with haunting Memphis-style horns underpinning the tale of a soul trying to escape perdition, making it feel right at home with the eleven other classics.
The release of Low Country Blues comes after Gregg’s successful recovery from a liver transplant and may indeed be another high water mark on his hall of fame career, and the life of a man given one more chance to live the blues and ride on.