Gregg All­man

South­ern Blood

Classic Rock - - The Hard Stuff -

A fi­nal, defiant wave of the flag from the south­ern rock pi­o­neer.

It’s there, at just about the one-minute mark of South­ern Blood’s open­ing track, a ten­der voice call­ing out: ‘I hope you’re haunted by the mu­sic of my soul when I’m gone.’ Whether the de­ci­sion to be­gin the al­bum with My Only True Friend was made be­fore All­man’s death in May is un­known, but it serves as the most per­fect cur­tain-raiser for a record that cel­e­brates an oft-over­looked mu­si­cian with ele­gance and style.

Six years on from the Gram­mynom­i­nated Low Coun­try Blues, it’s a com­fort to All­man’s fans that it should all end on such a high, qual­ity con­trol be­ing a pri­mary con­sid­er­a­tion when a man of his age (69) and de­te­ri­o­rat­ing health from liver cancer could be for­given for just phon­ing it in with a weary, “Will this do?”.

There are ten ex­em­plary songs here, which, the self-writ­ten first track aside, show­case the singer as a for­mi­da­ble in­ter­preter of other peo­ple’s ma­te­rial, in most cases close friends or con­tem­po­raries. His love for the long­gone Low­ell Ge­orge pos­i­tively beams out of ev­ery bar of Willin’, a righ­teously rus­tic pow­er­house of an an­them, coun­ter­bal­anced by the south­ern blues tes­ti­fy­ing of Penn & Old­ham’s Out Of Left Field, with a stop-off for sus­te­nance on the Grate­ful Dead’s Black Muddy River.

The warmth of the mu­sic owes much to its en­vi­ron­ment, laid down at the leg­endary FAME Stu­dios in Mus­cle Shoals, where Gregg and brother Duane recorded many of their finest mo­ments nigh on 50 years ear­lier. Pro­ducer Don Was clearly had those old All­man Broth­ers cuts in mind when fash­ion­ing the sonic tem­plate of South­ern Blood, and there are oblique ref­er­ences to the elder sib­ling (who passed away in 1971) on the clos­ing Song For Adam, a Jack­son Browne num­ber on which Browne him­self ap­pears.

Ul­ti­mately, the al­bum can’t help but be an ex­er­cise in nos­tal­gia, its maker per­haps aware that time was run­ning out fast, the se­lec­tions ar­guably All­man’s way of telling al­ready fallen friends like Low­ell Ge­orge, Jerry Gar­cia and

Tim Buck­ley that he was on his way to join them. It’s a the­ory that be­gins to carry se­ri­ous wa­ter as early as the afore­men­tioned opener, which is im­me­di­ately fol­lowed by an un­fussy strum through Buck­ley’s Once I Was.

It’s not of­ten any­one has the (al­beit heart­break­ing) lux­ury of be­ing able to map out their own memo­rial, and All­man leaves us with his head held high and a record of rare beauty.

Southend post-punk re­vival­ists shoot for the big league.

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