"Low Country Blues"
By Todd Whitesel
Since the early days of the Allman Brothers Band and the group’s originals and retelling of songs such as Blind Willie McTell’s “Statesboro Blues,” Gregg Allman has been singing the blues. It makes sense he would one day devote an entire album to his musical roots; the only surprise is that it took some 40 years into his career to make such a record. Low Country Blues is Allman’s paean to his influences, paying homage to the tunes of past masters including Skip James, Muddy Waters, Otis Rush and Bobby “Blue” Bland. A talented keyboardist and guitarist, Allman’s greatest instrument is his voice.
Wrapped in weariness and soaked with soul, Allman early on ascended beyond a cover musician into a true interpreter of whatever he played. Sometimes you have to live the life to sing about the life; unfortunately, that’s what’s missing from this album — some life. Per usual, T-Bone Burnett has imposed his formulaic production that makes this recording sound like countless others — “Let’s pretend we’re at Sun Studios, and I’ll throw in compression and reverb, etc.” Allman’s B-3 is buried in the mix, and there’s little variety between the 12 tunes. Instead of hair-raising energy and swampy, backwater blues, you get a polite, parlor-like approximation that tries to be something it isn’t. Allman puts in terrific performances across the board – his singing on Bland’s “Blind Man” is as good as anything he’s ever done — but I wish someone else had his back here.