Gregg Allman, "Southern Blood" (Rounder)
Gregg Allman's farewell album veers deeply into parting sentiment, but it also reminds us of what a singular talent we just lost when he died in May.
Farewell albums from musicians who know they are dying have become a thing of late. And Allman's just might be the best of them.
"I hope you're haunted by the music of my soul when I'm gone," he sings on "My Only True Friend," the only song he had a hand in writing. The lyric feels too literal, but soon the singing and playing that made Allman great transcend any maudlin tendencies.
With "Southern Blood," Allman serves notice one last time that he earned his place in the count-them-on-one hand set of white singers who could belt the blues from within.
Produced with tender care by Don Was, himself a studio legend, the album soars with arrangements built to spotlight Allman's singing. The McCrary Sisters and Buddy Miller sit in on several cuts, including a brilliant, horn-infused arrangement of "Black Muddy River."
On the finale, Jackson Browne's "Song for Adam," Allman chokes up when he sings, "It still seems that he stopped singing in the middle of his song." Was said Allman thought then of his brother, Duane Allman, who died at 24 at the peak of his power.
Maybe so. But he could have been mulling his own fate, too — and the knowledge, proven with gusto on his last recording, that he still had plenty to give.