Gregg Allman talks about his stellar year so far and what else is in store
As Gregg Allman returns to touring after taking a short break from the road, he sees 2016 as a productive year. There have been live shows, and a co-headlining run with ZZ Top to look forward to. He’s also feeling good about his trips to the studio to work with producer Don Was on his next solo album.
“I’ll tell you what, it could be the finest experience I ever had in the studio,” Allman said. “I mean, when I cut my first solo record, ‘Laid Back,’ that was incredible. I mean, I can remember it song for song, even now, and that was in 1973. And this was, I mean I got to use, like ‘Low Country Blues,’ my last record, then it was T Bone Burnett (producing). And I wanted the experience of working with that man because producers are either, they’re either real good or real bad. Like Tommy Dowd was almost like a father figure for us (the Allman Brothers Band). After he died (in 2002), I thought, God man, we’ll play hell finding another Tommy Dowd. And sure enough, there was Don Was.”
According to Allman, Was fell into the “really good” category of producers. What’s more, his approach in the studio reminded him of Dowd, who became one of music’s most legendary producers, having handled those duties on classic albums, not just by the Allman Brothers Band, but Eric Clapton, Aretha Franklin, Rod Stewart and dozens of others.
“He is incredible,” Allman said of Was. “He works with you. He doesn’t get up there and tell you to do this and that. That just doesn’t work. He wants to know how you feel about something, which is really the way a producer ought to be, and sit back on the side and be objective to what’s going down, because they can hear things hidden in there with all of it mixed together that we can’t.”
Allman declined to talk about the album in detail and didn’t disclose what songs had been recorded or how the music sounded compared to his other solo albums or various Allman Brothers releases. Specifics aside, there was no mistaking Allman’s enthusiasm for the album.
“We cut an incredible new record of songs,” he said. “It actually came out better than I’d hoped.” Unlike his previous album, “Low Country Blues,” which was recorded with studio musicians, Allman brought his touring band in to record the new album. It includes Sharrard (guitar), Peter Levin (keys), Steve Potts (drums), Marc Quinones (percussion), Brett Bass (bass) and the horn section of Jay Collins, Art Edmaiston and Marc Franklin.
That group was featured on Allman’s 2015 live CD/DVD, “Back To Macon, GA,” delivering a potent and tight performance behind an energized Allman. The live release features 16 songs that range from solo tunes to blues covers to several Allman Brothers Band classics reinvented with horn arrangements.
Allman has nothing but praise for his live band.
“It took me all of seven years to find these guys,” he said. “I didn’t have to change but three people because I really, the gods were really looking down on me the day I got two of Bobby Bland’s old horn players (Edmaiston and Franklin).”
Allman focused his musical efforts on his solo career since 2014, when the Allman Brothers Band, played what was billed as its final shows in October 2014 at New York City’s Beacon Theatre.
Allman said, however, the group’s story may not yet be finished.
“I can definitely see a reunion tour, maybe next year or the year after, something like that,” he said. “We recently started talking about it.”
For now, Allman will enjoy being on the road with his own band and preparing for the release of his new studio album. He said he’s looking forward to his tour with ZZ Top, whose guitarist/singer Billy Gibbons has been a friend since the late 1960s, when they both performed at a Los Angeles area club called the Magic Mushroom.
“I remember seeing the damn marquee of like who’s playing,” Allman said. “In little letters it would have ZZ Top, I remember, and there was Taj Mahal. And I mean, we were making zero money. There were like four bands a night. You were lucky if you got 45 minutes to play. But I remember, that’s just two of them off of the top of my head (that shared the stage during the late 1960s). But there were so, so many of them that later on became” stars.
Alan Sculley is a correspondent for Weekender. Reach Weekender at [email protected]