The March 17 edition of Greasy Tracks featured a four-hour special on Gregg Allman, including interviews with former bandmates, friends and those who worked with him over the years. In addition to a wide range of Allman’s solo work, including his posthumous release, Southern Blood, will be played.
Although best-known for his work with the Allman Brothers Band, Allman recorded eight solo albums, beginning with Laid Back in 1973. Of the 10 tracks on Southern Blood (Rounder Records) — regarded by many as his best-ever solo work — eight were covers painstakingly selected by Allman, manager/confidante Michael Lehman and producer Don Was. Allman and Lehman began the planning stages for the project in 2015 with a focus on defining Allman’s life, a pseudo narrative if you will, in music.
Despite his rapidly declining health, Allman and his crack touring band had time booked at FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals, Ala., and over a nine-day span in March 2016, recorded the album. FAME had a special place in Allman’s heart as it was the studio where his elder brother, Duane, had gained international acclaim as a session guitarist before they went on to form the Allman Brothers Band in 1969.
While Allman had originally planned on recording additional originals for the release, his condition prevented that and there were days, according to some of the musicians on the sessions, that Allman was only able to work for four hours at a time. In some cases, the band would lay tracks down and Allman would later add vocals to the lineup of interesting covers penned by Bob Dylan (“Going, Going, Gone”), Tim Buckley (“Once I Was”), Willie Dixon (“I Love The Life I Lead”), Jerry Garcia and Robert Hunter (“Black Muddy River”), Lowell George (“Willin’”), Jackson Browne (“Song For Adam”), Jackie Avery (“Blind Bats and Swamp Rats”) and the great partnership of Alabamans Spooner Oldham and Dan Penn (“Out Of Left Field”).
The two remaining tracks feature the heartfelt opener “My Only True Friend” co-written by Allman and guitarist/music director Scott Sharrard and Sharrard’s “Love Like Kerosene” which regularly found a place in the live sets played by the Allman Band. Sharrard related that he got the idea for “My Only True Friend” from a dream he had about Duane Allman — something he never shared with Allman with whom he slaved over getting the final version of the lyrics written.
Sharrard plays Bridge Street Live in Collinsville on April 14.
Southern Blood gained a Grammy nomination for Best Americana Album and “My Only True Friend” as Best Americana Roots Song.
Sharrard; veteran sax player Art Edmaiston, who joined Allman’s band in 2015; and percussionist Marc Quiñones who spent 24 years in the Allman Brothers Band before joining Gregg Allman’s band when the ABB broke up, were all interviewed along with Lehman and Hewell “Chank” Middleton, Allman’s best friend for nearly 50 years.
Allman had been diagnosed with liver cancer in 2012 and his touring schedule and time in the recording studio began to lessen as the years passed by, making the recording of Southern Blood an emotionally charged endeavor as everyone involved understood it would be Allman’s final recording and his first studio work since the outstanding Low Country Blues in 2011. .
Following the sessions in Alabama, Allman was forced to cancel a slew of live dates after coming down with pneumonia. He would ultimately make his on-stage return with a full band on Oct. 29, 2016, at the Laid Back Festival in Atlanta where Billy Gibbons of Z.Z. Top joined in for a late-set jam which included a version of “One Way Out.” It would ultimately be the last time Allman appeared in concert.
Lehman and Was worked closely during the final production of the album and Lehman was in constant contact with Allman who passed away at the age of 69 on May 27, 2017, his wife Shannon and Middleton – who held a phone so Allman could talk to Lehman who assured him that Southern Blood would come out as Allman had planned — beside him.
The Laid Back Festival was the brainchild of Allman and Lehman who partnered with Live Nation for a one-off show at Jones Beach Theater in Wantagh, New York, in 2015. A year later, the Allman Band was slated to headline five of the one-day fests. In 2017, months after Allman’s passing, the festival continued “In The Spirit of Gregg Allman.” Dates and potential lineups for the 2018 edition remain unconfirmed.
Now in its 24th year and regularly airing on Saturdays, Greasy Tracks is the longest-running soul- and blues-based program in Connecticut.