Don Was-Produced, FAME Studios-Recorded Collection Serves As Remarkable Farewell!
Southern Blood serves as a remarkable final testament from an artist whose contributions have truly shaped rock & roll throughout the past four decades. Gregg Allman's first all-new recording since 2011's Grammy Award-nominated solo landmark, Low Country Blues, the album is among the most uniquely personal of the Rock & Roll Hall of Famer's career, an emotionally expansive collection of songs written by friends and favorite artists including Jackson Browne, Willie Dixon, Jerry Garcia & Robert Hunter, Lowell George and Spooner Oldham & Dan Penn, meant to serve as a salutary farewell to his legion of devoted fans and admirers.
"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 Don Was. Allman, well aware his time was short, approached the project with an unambiguously realistic agenda. High atop his list of goals was to capture the sound of the ultimate Gregg Allman Band in full flight, considering them the tightest knit combo of all the line-ups that had backed him over his 40+ year solo career. Despite his ongoing health issues, the Gregg Allman Band had picked up right where the Allman Brothers Band left off in 2015, spending nearly two years on the road with tour highlights including the now-annual Allman-curated Laid Back Festival. 2015's two disc set, Back To Macon, GA immortalized Allman and his 8-member band's floor-shaking live power but their leader was determined to see what the group could do within the confines of the studio.
A further key to Allman's vision for Southern Blood was his decision to record at the world-renowned FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals, AL. Alongside its own fabled history, the legendary studio occupied a momentous place in Allman's personal back pages. And of course brother Duane's presence courses through Southern Blood too, from Jackson Browne's "Song For Adam" – the final verse of which Was says reminded Gregg of his older brother's premature passing – to the funk-fried "Blind Bats and Swamp Rats," originally found on the Duane-produced Ton-Ton Macoute!, a lost classic from left-handed blues guitarist Johnny Jenkins.
Allman, Was, and longtime manager and dear friend Michael Lehman spent significant time plotting out Southern Blood, carefully selecting material that would capture the moment and simultaneously serve as a synopsis of an undeniably extraordinary life. Songs like Bob Dylan's haunting "Going, Going Gone" and Tim Buckley's immortal "Once I Was" allowed Allman a chance to look back over his time on Earth while also pondering the journey that lay ahead. Allman was of course a gifted and evocative tunesmith in his own right as well and Southern Blood is highlighted by one of the most candid tracks of his long songwriting career, "My Only True Friend," co-written with Gregg Allman Band guitarist/musical director Scott Sharrard.
Sharrard – who also contributes his own show-stopping "Love Like Kerosene" – led the Gregg Allman Band through two weeks of recording, with all nine musicians playing together in the same room and Allman singing live vocals. Despite the undeniable "overtones of finality," the sessions proved both relaxed and fun for all involved. Though Allman's diminishing stamina caused the daily sessions to be shortened, he filled each moment in-studio with every ounce of his signature fire and enthusiasm – an intensity that prevailed to the very last note.
Rich with emotional texture, historical connectivity, and purity of performance, Southern Blood would be a landmark Gregg Allman record under any circumstance, its powerful subject matter and passionate presentation as emblematic an expression of his distinctive art as any prior work in the Allman canon. Though his loss leaves a vast musical space that can never truly be filled, Southern Blood stands tall as a remarkable valedictory and memorial to a true giant of American music, now and forever.