All My Friends - Celebrating the Songs & Voice of Gregg Allman 2CD/1DVD Rounder Records
What sometimes gets lost in consideration of Gregg Allman's career - both with the Allman Brothers band and as a solo artist - is the actual quality of his songwriting. The melodies, the lyrics - though it's all right up there, it's easy to lose that amidst the man and the band's story and image of hirsute epic jammers.
So despite the incredible lineup of performers - which include the honoree himself - it's a new respect for Gregg Allman's songwriting that is the real star of this set, which features 26 audio and video performances from the January 2014 tribute show at Atlanta's Fox Theatre.
Performers from a gamut of musical genres are here including classic rock (Jackson Browne, Taj Mahal), blues (Keb' Mo), soul (Sam Moore), country (Vince Gill, Martina McBride, Trace Adkins, Zac Brown, Eric Church), rock (Pat Monahan), jam bands (Warren Haynes, Widespread Panic, Derek Trucks & Susan Tedeschi) and the irrepressible Dr. John.
Highlights include an incendiary "End of the Line" with Haynes and Trucks, John Hiatt's surprisingly vital take on "One Way Out," Church's "Ain't Wastin' Time No More," Gill's "Multi-Colored Lady," and Monahan's aching "Queen of Hearts."
"You Can't Lose What You Never Had" featuring Allman's son Devon, Robert Randolph, and Wet Willie's Jimmy Hall. The last song finds a frenetic Randolph elevating his lap steel and tossing it around like it was a hand held instrument.
A crack backing band including former ABB and current Rolling Stones keyboardist Chuck Leavell, bassist Don Was, Hall on harmonica, the amazing Kenny Aronoff on drums, and Jack Pearson and Audley Freed on guitars add punch, performing both support duties and getting to shine on their own.
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A fit-looking Allman himself makes occasional drops-ins with Mahal, Browne and Brown, but it's when the full ABB lineup takes the stage for the epic "Dreams" and "Whipping Post" that one realizes this is a band not resting on past glories - though it will be interesting to see what happens with the announced departures of guitarist Haynes and Trucks at the end of this year.
By the time the full cast comes out for a show closing "Will the Circle Be Unbroken" it's clear that Gregg Allman has a lot of "friends" out there, and the entire show is a fitting and wonderful tribute to the man and his music.