Gregg Allman the Midnight Rider Keeps Rolling, Post-Brothers, With a New Band

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Boulder Theater | October 13 and 14

By Timothy Dwenger

There are few figures in American music history that live up to the legend of Gregg Allman. He’s a founding member of one of the most influential bands in rock and roll, an incomparable songwriter, and quite simply one of the best voices to ever sing the blues. While medical professionals and statisticians would probably say he shouldn’t be around today, or at least not be able to sing and perform the way he does, Allman is proving them all wrong. After more than 45 years in the business, he proved with recent tours and the release of his first live album since 1974 that he is still firing on all cylinders.

“I’m very, very proud of Back to Macon. We were smokin’ that night, man,” he told The Marquee during a recent interview as he was preparing for a headlining set at the 22nd annual Telluride Blues & Brews Festival. While the album showcases standout tunes from the Allman Brothers catalog such as “Statesboro Blues,” “Melissa,” and “One Way Out” Allman pointed to a couple of others as his favorites from the outstanding double disc when he said: “I think ‘Ain’t Wastin’ Time No More’ and ‘Queen of Hearts’ came across really well.”

One of the things that makes this recent release so good is that Allman is currently playing with an incredible band that has the potential to rival any band he’s been in since the late 60’s and, on top of that, his voice is still in fine form. “I put my throat through a lot of abuse when I was younger; the best thing I ever did for my voice was to quit smoking. Smoking is the worst. I tell anyone who is a singer to never smoke, and if you do, quit now. Now!” he said. “I take much better care of my throat; I gargle with hot water in the shower, but the simple truth is, the best thing for keeping your voice strong is sleep. Nothing beats plenty of deep, restful sleep for a singer.”

While Allman was the voice of The Allman Brothers Band for 45 years, in late 2014 The Brothers performed their “final show” at the Beacon Theatre in New York City and today Allman is on the road with a band that took him a long time to put together. “I worked for years to put this line-up together, and I couldn’t be happier,” he raved. “I have a great rhythm section, starting with Steve Potts on drums. Steve is from Memphis, and has played with Booker T. and the M.G.s, Neil Young and Buddy Guy, just to name a few. People know Marc Quinones from the Brothers, and Marc has added so much to our sound on percussion. On bass we have Ron Johnson, who has played with Karl Denson and Warren Haynes. Those three guys are rock-solid. Peter Levin is a tremendous piano player who played with Levon Helm and Aaron Neville, among many, many more, and then we have our horn section. Jay Collins has been with me for years now, and he is one of the very best in the business. Then a couple of years back we got very lucky and we landed Art Edmaiston and Marc Franklin, both of whom had played with Bobby ‘Blue’ Bland, which says it all right there. I’ve always loved R&B, and you can’t have R&B without horns. Those guys have added a real sway to the band, and I’m enjoying the hell out of playing with this line-up.”

While the performances that are cranking out of this band makes it very clear why Allman is having so much fun playing with them, his signature sound would never be complete without a top-notch guitarist and he found exactly that in Scott Sharrard. He’s been called “One of the best guitarists in the country” by Billboard and “the next Eric Clapton or Mike Bloomfield” by the Indianapolis Star Tribune and Allman, not surprisingly, has equally high praise for the guitarist. “I know all about guitar players —I’ve seen the very best — and Scott Sharrard is the perfect guitarist for my band. He understands that you don’t need to play just for the sake of playing; Scott isn’t one of those guys who thinks they’re getting paid by the note. He never steps on the vocals, and leaves plenty of room for everyone else to do their thing, but when it’s time to solo, Scott delivers, boy.”

While Sharrard is the guitarist and musical director of the band, he is also contributing songs to Allman’s catalog including “Endless Road” and “Love Like Kerosene,” the latter of which was showcased in grand fashion at the band’s recent show in Telluride. Though he is taking cues from others, and his 2011 album Low Country Blues was largely made up of covers, Allman is still writing original songs and is very public about the fact that his writing over the years owes a huge debt of gratitude to Jackson Browne who he lived with in L.A. in the 60’s for a short period of time. “I would watch that man literally slave over a song for hours and hours,” he admitted. “Jackson was so dedicated to his craft; nothing else mattered to him but songwriting, and that left a real impression on me, no doubt about that. Jackson Browne writes songs like no other, man.”

Though they lost touch for a while, Allman and Browne reconnected at the star-studded 2014 event “All My Friends: Celebrating the Songs & Voice of Gregg Allman” that took place at The Fox Theatre in Atlanta and even got to sing together one of the first songs Allman was ever truly happy with. “I have to say that singing ‘Melissa’ with Jackson Browne was a very special moment. I looked over at him and he was starting to tear up, and it almost got me to crying! That show was something I’ll always remember, but right now I’m looking forward to what’s next. Every day is a blessing for me, and I plan to do this for as long as I can.”

 

Gregg Allman

Boulder Theater | October 13 and 14

 

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1 Comment

  1. Greg Allmans comments was very enjightening. Glad he is still at it. Such. a talent. Would love to see him perform. Whipping post is my all time favorite!

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