The final studio album from the late rocker Gregg Allman, titled Southern Blood, will release via Rounder Records on Sept. 8. The torchbearer for Southern rock died earlier this year on May 27, at the age of 69, at his home near Savannah, Georgia.
The album stands as the final studio release, and first all-new recording since his 2011 album Low Country Blues. Southern Blood features a collection of songs penned by friends and fellow artists including Jackson Browne, Willie Dixon, Jerry Garcia & Robert Hunter, Lowell George, Spooner Oldham, and Dan Penn. Allman collaborated with manager Michael Lehman, as well as Grammy-winning producer Don Was. The album was recorded at FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama.
The album’s range includes Jackson Browne’s “Song For Adam,” which includes a final verse that Was says reminded Gregg of his older brother Duane’s passing, as well as “Blind Bats and Swamp Rats,” a track from Johnny Jenkins’ Duane Allman-produced album Ton-Ton Macoute!. Bob Dylan’s “Going, Going Gone” and Tim Buckley’s “Once I Was” also made the cut.
“As his producer, I was dedicated to helping Gregg crystallize his vision for the record and to help make sure that this vision made it to the tape,” says Was. “He was a musical hero of mine and, in later years, had become a good friend. The gravitas of this particular situation was not lost on me. Gregg was a sweet, humble man with a good heart and good intentions and it was a great honor to help him put his musical affairs in order and say a proper farewell.”
“Gregg was very excited to be in the studio,” says Lehman. “He was especially thrilled to be recording this studio album with his solo band—he was so proud of them and loved the sound that they produced together. Gregg felt close to every single one of them. The Gregg Allman Band was like a family or a well oiled machine, always knowing what the other band members were thinking and doing.”
“Muscle Shoals is hallowed musical ground,” says Was. “FAME was the place where Gregg’s brother Duane first started making waves in the music world and where the earliest seeds of The Allman Brothers Band were sown in a back room during their first, seminal rehearsals. Duane’s presence is still ubiquitous in that building. Recording there was Gregg’s way of making his spirit a part of this album, in the same way that his spirit continued to be part of Gregg’s life.”
The album’s lead single, “My Only True Friend,” which Allman co-wrote with Gregg Allman Band guitarist and musical director Scott Sharrard. Sharrard led the band through two weeks of recording for the album, with all nine musicians playing together in the same room, and Allman singing live vocals.
“‘My Only True Friend’ was Gregg’s attempt to contextualize the course of his life,” says Was. “The man that his fans saw performing onstage was the essential Gregg Allman—he was whole and truly satisfied when he was up there playing music. The trials and troubles he faced in life were mostly the result of not knowing what to do with himself in between shows. In this song, he’s addressing a woman and explaining that, although he loves her and doesn’t want to face living his life alone, being away on the road and performing every night is his lifeblood. If you understand this about Gregg Allman, every other aspect of his life makes complete sense.”
“Gregg was not feeling great,” Lehman says, “but being a true professional, he gave it his all as usual. He hit the studio every day for about four or five hours and would typically nail one or two of the songs.”
“Gregg was thrilled that the sound in his head was manifesting itself on the tape,” Was says. “He didn’t have all the lungpower of his younger self, but we felt that these raw, weathered performances were honest and compelling. We all agreed to leave them as they were on the day they were recorded. In the spirit of Laid Back, Gregg wanted to hear things like background harmony vocals and reverb on his voice but this album is essentially a documentary of our two weeks in the studio.
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