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In Memory Of Duane Allman 1946-1971

Those who know me, know my love of the Allman Brothers Band. Duane Allman was the creator of the band that bore his name and its leader for the first few years of its existence. Duane was a road dog, playing in bands since his teens mostly with his younger brother Gregg at his side. The two had a few false starts with The Allman Joys and Hour Glass but it wasn’t until Duane threw in the towel on the California music business promise of stardom and hi-tailed it back home that he found the recognition he deserved.

DuaneAllmanWilsonPickettDuane played on numerous recording sessions when he returned, often with top Atlantic Records artists at Muscle Shoals. It was actually Duane’s idea for Wilson Pickett to record “Hey Jude” and it was Wilson who gave Duane the nickname Sky Man which eventually morphed into Skydog. Today is the anniversary of the day we lost Skydog and I thought I’d share a playlist in tribute to this fallen musical master who died way too soon. You’ll find familiar songs on the playlist but I’ve chosen recordings that are mostly off the beaten path of the legendary At Fillmore East and the Brothers’ first few studio albums. I’ve also included some of my favorite session work Duane performed including Herbie Mann’s “Push Push,” the aforementioned “Hey Jude,” and for all the “Clapton Is God” nuts out there, “Layla” whose wicked riff and soaring slide guitars both came from Duane Allman. This week is the one-year anniversary of the last concert played by his band. They kept his spirit and music alive for over 40 years and if we keep going back and exploring his creations we too can keep it alive. Sail on, Skydog, sail on.

Hump Day! Risque Tunes For Your Midweek Blues – May 20, 2015

Happy Hump Day everyone! With the sad news in the Blues world recently, it’s important we celebrate the good times and the true meaning of the Blues, which is of course, Seduction. Sweet, sweet seduction. For a hundred years the blues singers have been seducing mates by boasting of their sexual prowess, directly and through metaphor. They sing of their experiences, what they knew and what they could do, for you, to you, and with you. However, Willie Dixon came along and made this power congenital. That sounds dirty. Yes, Willie (which also sounds dirty) wrote about being born a sexual dynamo. He was so powerful the gypsy woman showed up to warn his mother. I’m not sure what she hoped to accomplish with that. Maybe it was her recommendation to keep him away from the Little Schoolgirls. We’ll probably never know. One thing we do know is that singing about this natural born condition was contagious.

Pretty much everyone has sung this song, even the ladies. Etta James famously adapted the song as “Hoochie Coochie Gal.” Just in case you’re not sure, she’s gonna tell you what it’s all about. Now, since we’re a Blues website we’ll stick to mostly Blues artists but “Hoochie Coochie Man” has been done by rockers like Steppenwolf and the Rolling Stones and jazz masters like Jimmy Smith, to guys like Lou Rawls and Steven Seagal.

Don’t worry, Steven Seagal’s version didn’t make our list, but you might hate one of them just as much! See? You have something to look forward to. You should definitely look forward to a live rendition from Buddy Guy. He messes with the crowd and they deserve it too. Some of them wouldn’t shut up during the quiet intro. We’ve got Muddy Waters doing a version from a 70s TV special, Junior Wells’ studio recording, the man himself Mr. Willie Dixon performing with Stephen Stills, a smoking 1970 live version from The Allman Brothers Band, and Walter Trout laying waste to everything holy with a blazing five-alarm guitar fire.

Since the song made the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s list of the “500 Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll” we have to include at least one Rock & Roll version so we’re jumping way off the deep end where Lemmy is dressed in a leather and denim bathing suit and floating in a lounge chair with a Jack & Coke in one hand and a Marlboro in the other reminiscing about his legendary exploits. Yes folks, even Motorhead did a version of “Hoochie Coochie Man.” Don’t make assumptions! Give it a listen. It features the short lived early 80’s line-up with former Thin Lizzy guitarist Brian Robertson and is a pretty good Blues jam. Maybe it will seduce you into a life of Rock & Roll sin. Whatever you do, enjoy the rest of your week. Lemmy remind you, there’s still time to throw a Hump into it.

Etta James Hoochie Coochie Gal

Buddy Guy

Muddy Waters

Junior Wells

Willie Dixon with Stephen Stills

Allman Brothers Band

Walter Trout Band

Motorhead

Tedeschi Trucks Band At F.M. Kirby Center – Live Show Review

TedeschiTrucksBandStageShot

We caught up with the Tedeschi Trucks Band tour as it rolled into F.M. Kirby Center in Wilkes-Barre, PA on Sunday February 15, 2015. The band is touring behind their second studio album, Made Up Mind. This eleven piece ensemble includes Derek Trucks on guitar, Susan Tedeschi on guitar and lead vocals, Kofi Burbridge on keyboards and flute, Tim Lefebvre on bass, Tyler Greenwell and J.J. Johnson, both TedeschiTrucksBandMikeMattisonon drums and percussion, with former Derek Trucks Band vocalist Mike Mattison on harmony and lead vocals and acoustic guitar, plus Mark Rivers on harmony vocals and the horn section which includes Kebbi Williams on saxophone, Maurice Brown on trumpet, and Saunders Sermons on trombone. Together they make a joyful noise and it surely warmed up the bitter cold winter night.

TedeschiTrucksBandSusanSingingFor those unfamiliar with the band, Derek Trucks was an integral member of the Allman Brothers Band since 1999, as well as leader of the Derek Trucks Band which dissolved as TTB was being created. Susan Tedeschi was an award winning blues and roots singer and guitarist. The pair met when Susan toured as an opener for the Allman Brothers Band way back in 1999 or so. The two were later married and attempted to raise a family while being on the road in three different bands. Eventually they decided pool their talents and the Tedeschi Trucks Band was born. Their first album, Revelator, garnered TTB a Best Blues Album Grammy and a Blues Music Award for Album of the Year. Their follow-up live album, Everybody’s Talkin’ won the band a Blues Music Award for Best Rock Blues Album plus Susan, Derek and TTB itself won separate Blues Music Awards in 2012.

TedeschiTrucksBandDerekFeelingItAgainI have seen Tedeschi Trucks Band only once before this show and I was not impressed. I thought their debut album was lackluster, melancholy, and 180 degrees away from the triumph that was the final Derek Trucks Band record, Already Free. I felt let down by what I thought would be a powerful and dynamic band and record. The live set I saw previously found the band stumbling to find a pace for their shows and had too many mellow tunes grouped together. They lost me about half way through. Still, I respect these fine musicians and now, four years later, I was ready to give them another try, especially because I love the Made Up Mind album. I never expected the dynamic, expressive, full-bore Blues, Rock, and R&B juggernaut revue that trampled all my reservations and skepticism.

TedeschiTrucksBandKofiAndDerek

Without fanfare, the lights went down and one by one the band members came on stage, took their places, and started into the opening number. By the time they launched into “Made Up Mind” ten minutes later they were firing on all cylinders and ramping it up into overdrive. “Made Up Mind” is a raspy, chugging tune and drew cheers from the crowd seconds after Derek Trucks started scratching out the opening riffs. Susan Tedeschi belted out the chorus defiantly as the crowd sang along and boogied with the strutting rhythm. In the back of the hall, folks gathered to dance as Derek Trucks took everyone on slide guitar excursions into the heavens.

TedeschiTrucksBandKofiBurbridgeWhile Susan Tedeschi’s guitar playing has developed significantly since joining forces with her husband on stage, Kofi Burbridge serves as Derek’s main foil for soloing. Kofi is a maestro on keyboards and flute. He treated the crowd to many fantastic moments on both instruments. When Kofi takes a turn, Derek moves to Kofi’s corner on stage, listens intently, and with barely perceptible head movements spurs his musical partner higher. As for Susan, she played some excellent solos during Bobby “Blue” Bland’s “I Pity The Fool” which she also sang with fervor and authority.

 

TedeschiTrucksBandHornSection

The chemistry of the whole ensemble is undeniable. The horn section adds significantly to the overall sound, the two drummers are in lock step like a drum corps in a marching band, and vocalists Mike Mattison and Mark Rivers add layers of harmony that make the songs soar. Both Mike and Mark took turns on lead vocals. Susan Tedeschi is a formidable singer, but having two additional voices for lead vocals expands the band’s range exponentially. I realized about halfway through the set that this eleven piece band is a Rhythm & Blues orchestra. Each element of the band fills a specific purpose, creating layers of sound, and increasing the overall potency of the music. In a word, it was incredible.

TedeschiTrucksBandDerekAndSusan

Among the highlights were back to back acoustic tunes including Elmore James’ “Done Somebody Wrong” which was an electrified favorite of the Allman Brothers Band. Here, Derek and Susan took the song beyond its roots with a sparse arrangement that somehow kept all the intensity intact. “Bound For Glory” and “Midnight In Harlem” are standout tunes from the first album and they have developed into tour de force performance pieces. “Midnight In Harlem” showcases Susan Tedeschi’s command of her voice and the band’s ability to create tension and release. “Bound For Glory” has become an extended instrumental workout and gave me several breaks from reality as I found myself thinking I was in the middle of a full blown Allman Brothers jam. These moments gave me great hope for this extraordinary band, and my listening habits of the future.

TedeschiTrucksBandDerekFeelingIt

I really can’t say enough about the complete reversal of opinion I experienced during the show. I am pleased to know this band has hit its stride and will hopefully continue to improve. Unfortunately it happens less and less, but it’s a good feeling to sit in a concert hall and be utterly impressed. Over the course of two hours, this well-oiled machine called Tedeschi Trucks Band raised the bar for every working band out there.

 

Hot Biscuits! Our Favorite Blues CDs Of 2014

YearEndSleighFullOfCdsThe end of the 2014 is closing in and it’s been a great year for Blues fans. There was a ton of new albums this year. Some great debuts, terrific live albums, and a slew of interesting reissues. We at Blues Biscuits started this venture mid year and we’ve reviewed and covered a lot of great music since then. As most magazines do, we have compiled our list of favorite Blues CDs of 2014.

Our list is in no particular order, although I must say that for me, the album I keep playing over and over again this year is Dave & Phil Alvin’s Common Ground. It’s probably my favorite album this year in any genre. You can’t miss with these guys and their crack band covering Big Bill Broonzy. Phil & Dave singing and playing together is just as exhilarating as it was 35 years ago at the dawn of The Blasters’ career. If you didn’t get it yet, go get it right now or shoot an email to Santa and have him drop it in your stocking. If you already have it, you know what I’m talking about. Get a copy for all your roots and blues loving friends. You can find our review of the album here.

Thus, in no particular order, our 14 favorite Blues CDs of 2014:

 

Dave & Phil Alvin

Phil and Dave found Common Ground. Neither one wants to wear a pink bunny suit.

Jimmy Thackery

Whether it’s Jimmy Thackery playing music or Santa digging in his sack, the possibilities are Wide Open.

Indigenous

Time Is Coming for you to fill some stockings with this incredible album from Mato Nanji and Indigenous.

Chris Duarte

I’d gladly trade the 364 gifts from the 12 days of Christmas for one copy of Lucky 13.

Walter Trout

When The Blues Came Callin’ Walter Trout sang loud for all to hear.

Tedeschi Trucks Band

If you can’t decide on a last minute gift, TTB will help you with their Made Up Mind.

Gary Clark Jr.

Gary Clark Jr. Live – This one will roast your chestnuts real good.

Rory Gallagher

Santa kicks off his yearly ride with an Irish Tour. With all the raw energy in this deluxe box set, Santa will be done a little early this year.

Allman Brothers Band

While Santa is away, The Allman Brothers Band will Play. All Night.

Shane Speal

Santa lets loose a Holler! every time he rides through the threshold of Hell!

Harpdog Brown

What It Is is a F&#cking great album from a guy who looks a little bit like Burl Ives.

Selwyn Birchwood

Don’t Call No Ambulance, just put the suit on and get in the sleigh.

Alexis P. Suter Band

You’ll find this in your stocking if you’ve been good, because Santa will Love The Way You Roll.

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That’s it Biscuiteers, 14 CDs from 2014 we keep going back to more than the others.

There’s still a sleigh full of great music to explore from 2014. What were your favorites? Share with us on Facebook and Twitter @BluesBiscuits.

Happy Holidays everyone. It’s a Festivus for the rest of us!!!

Hump Day! Risque Tunes For Your Midweek Blues 10/29/14

BluesBiscuitsHumpdayHappy Hump Day folks. This week we’re looking at a song that has become a staple in Rock and Blues. “Good Morning Little School Girl” has been done by hundreds of artists over the years. It is possibly the most popular song every written about pedophilia. The song was first recorded by John Lee “Sonny Boy” Williamson in 1937 as “Good Morning, School Girl.” In true blues fashion the tune is borrowed and in this case, the melody is from Son Bonds’ “Back And Side Blues.” I couldn’t find a clip of it to share but you can find audio out there on Spotify and other retailers if you want to compare them.

The song has been done many different ways. Performers like Mississippi Fred McDowell, Lightnin’ Hopkins, and John Lee Hooker all did country blues versions. In 1965, Junior Wells and Buddy Guy recorded it for Hoodoo Man Blues giving it a distinctive guitar riff and bass line. That signature riff influenced nearly every future version of the song, especially in the Rock world. From The Yardbirds, Ten Years After, Johnny Winter, and ZZ Top, to the Allman Brothers Band and beyond, Buddy and Junior inspired an army of guitarists to whip out their big riffs and woo the school girls. It creeps me out.

As with many Blues songs, the more it’s covered the more it is changed. The words change a lot. the original were perhaps least creepy with only the first verse focusing on the underage object of his affection. Johnny Winter took the lechery to whole new levels with lines like “When I was twelve, baby when I was twelve years old – You know I was looking for a schoolgirl just to eat my jelly roll.” Alvin Lee from Ten Years After just wanted to ball you all night long, so at least you have that going for you. The only saving grace for this song is that in 1937 a lot of people got married well before the age of 18. And there’s that monster riff.

We present to you a few different versions for your amusement and/or horror.

John Lee “Sonny Boy” Williamson Good Morning, School Girl

Junior Wells’ Chicago Blues Band Good Morning Little School Girl

Buddy Guy Good Morning Little School Girl

Ten Years After Good Morning Little School Girl

Muddy Waters with Johnny Winter Good Morning Little School Girl

The Allman Brothers Band Good Morning Little School Girl

 

 

Allman Brothers Band Retrospective – A Look At The Reviled And Underrated Albums

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2014 marks the 45th anniversary of the Allman Brothers Band and it has become their final year. The band did not embark on an extensive final tour. Instead they played their annual residency at the Beacon Theatre in New York City, which was cut short due to Gregg Allman being ill, plus they played a handful of festival dates and scheduled no more shows until the make-up dates were announced for the Beacon run. The Allman Brothers Band is now in the midst of its final 6 shows, including make-up dates from March plus a few extras, all being played at the Beacon Theatre. Fans, like me, hoping for a big blowout at a large venue have been left disappointed. The band has not even made arrangements to stream the shows on line for their worldwide legion of devoted fans, many of whom have never seen the band live due to the limited geographical area of their yearly touring over the last 15 years.

In many ways it seems like the band is going out with a whimper and catering to the most affluent among their fans. The tickets sold out quickly, yet as of Tuesday October 21, 2014, Stub Hub had 1193 tickets available ranging from $177 to a whopping $11,005. Obviously the band doesn’t set prices on Stub Hub, but if they played a big venue with 20,000 seats available they could have curbed the costs and made the final show more accessible to their fans. Yes, I’m a little aggravated by the demise of my favorite band and their nonchalant attitude as they fade away. Maybe it’s best they’re calling it a day. They may play different sets every night but they lean heavily on their first four albums, play way too many Van Morrison covers, and in recent years have performed the At Fillmore East album in full several times as well as their first two records and Eat A Peach. The band regularly ignores a large part of its discography, for personal and musical reasons, and often so does the press. It’s almost like the band stopped making new music in 1973. While the band has made musical missteps since 1973, it has also made incredibly vital music, and some of it, especially in the 1990’s, eclipses the classics and radio staples.

As a tribute to The Allman Brothers Band on the occasion of their retirement, I am taking a look at some of the reviled and under-rated records in their catalog. We’re looking at the first reunion, “Arista years,” and the live albums that stand in the shadow of At Fillmore East – which, for the record, is not titled Live At Fillmore East, Live At The Fillmore, Fillmore East, or any of the other variants I’ve seen and heard fans use. If you’re going to claim an album as your absolute favorite, learn the title of it!

 

AllmanBrothersBandEnlightenedRoguesThe Allman Brothers Band

Enlightened Rogues

Capricorn Records

Released February 1979

 

Enlightened Rogues, named after Duane Allman’s description of the band, is a buried masterpiece in the Allman Brothers Band’s discography. From the gritty opening slide notes of “Crazy Love” to the final mournful strains of “Sail Away,” the record delivers the perfect balance of its first two eras – hard blues and swinging jazz rock. The tracks are streamlined and there are no long jams, but there never really were on the studio albums. On Enlightened Rogues, everyone seemed focused on making the best possible album and it paid off for a while.

The band had been split for several years and made their first appearance together on August 16, 1978 as part of a Dickey Betts & Great Southern show. Shortly after they decided to regroup and pick up where they left off. Chuck Leavell and Lamar Williams declined to rejoin, instead focusing on their band Sea Level, so the first reunion lineup added Great Southern members Dan Toler and David “Rook” Goldflies on guitar and bass, respectively. The legendary Tom Dowd was brought in to produce the album and pulled a terrific album out of a band learning to fly again. The overall sound and the tightness of the musicians on the record owe much to the two previous Great Southern records. Dickey Betts had put together a twin-guitar band modeled on the original Allman Brothers lineup and been on the road playing bluesy rock boogie tunes and mega-jams with Toler and Goldflies. When it came time to get down to business, the front line of guitarists had been playing together for a while.

The band tears through a host of bluesy tunes on Enlightened Rogues, momentarily stepping away from the country rock sound of Win, Lose, Or Draw. Gregg Allman is menacing on B.B. King’s “Blind Love” and plays a spirited Hammond B3 solo. The guitar team burns bright and hot on “Need Your Love So Bad,” and they funk up the John Lee Hooker boogie on “Can’t Take It With You.” Gregg Allman’s only composition on the record is “Just Ain’t Easy” which is a scathing look at his time lost in Los Angeles with Cher. It is harrowing, haunting and beautiful. “Try It One More Time” is a bit of a mission statement from the band and a mark of solidarity between Dickey Betts and Gregg Allman. The two share lead vocals which had not been done before. The sound of their voices together on this rollicking, defiant rocker is perfect. Given all we know now about their relationship it’s a wonder they were able to pull it off.

The musical highlight of Enlightened Rogues is “Pegasus.” This instrumental is the return to form every fan was hoping for. The lilting Dickey Betts melody played by two lead guitarists, churning drums, and scorching solos all contribute to the greatness of this lost highpoint. The combination of the title and music give it a feeling of flying above the Grand Canyon on the mythical beast. If you do one thing today, find this song and listen to it. A lot.

My only problem with this album is the lack of distinction in the guitar tones of Dickey Betts and Dan Toler. Dan Toler was a hell of a guitar player and you’ll see this if you watch live clips of the band or listen to the Gregg Allman band records from the 80’s, but on Enlightened Rogues he sounds like Dickey Betts. Dickey plays a lot of slide guitar on the record and has noted that the Allman Brothers’ sound was built on Duane’s slide mixed with own iconic tone. Maybe the band was trying to capture this. It didn’t quite work because Dickey’s tone seems to come out of him whether he’s playing a Les Paul, SG, or Strat so on Enlightened Rogues we end up with Dickey Betts and a guy who sounds like Dickey Betts. It’s a damned shame because the playing on this record is red hot and I’d like to know who’s who without studying it. Still, the songs are solid and the performances are spirited. Enlightened Rogues is stands on equal footing with the bands early records. Unfortunately, the band doesn’t think so and has all but ignored it since 1982. Don’t be like them, check it out.

 

AllmanBrothersBandReachForTheSkyThe Allman Brothers Band

Reach For The Sky

Arista Records

Released August 1980

 

1979 to 1982 was a crazy time for the Allman Brothers Band. It is an era that has become known as The Arista Years and the band, as well as many fans, never acknowledges it. I became a fan in the 80’s while the band was defunct. I didn’t know I wasn’t supposed to like the Arista Years. I found the two Arista albums and Enlightened Rogues early on and enjoyed them quite a bit. I still do. It was a tumultuous time for the band and the new record company wanted the band to modernize its sound. As the 80’s crept in so did the synthesizers – and the dreaded Keytar. However, if you take away the poppy synths there’s a pretty solid rock and roll record underneath.

Even with their lives in total disarray, these guys managed to write good songs with some even bordering on great. The record starts with churning organ and gospel “oohs.” It’s a tent revival in Macon, Georgia folks and the Reverends Forrest Richard Betts and Gregory Lenoir Allman are about to start a Pentecostal fire under your ass that will most likely end in a fist fight. The two men share vocals on this semi-autobiographical funky gospel romp. The words include the phrase “they might even name a street after us one of these days.” The line sums up the entitled rock star attitude they had at the time, but this year (2014) Duane Allman had a street named after him in Macon, GA so it was slightly prophetic as well. “Mystery Woman” starts off sounding a little lightweight, but it turns into a punchy tune. It has excellent vocal work from Gregg Allman and backup singers. “I Got A Right To Be Wrong” is a rocking tune from Dickey Betts, but unfortunately it confirmed that his guitar playing was growing stagnant. It marks the second album in a row to use the same slide riff as a primary lick. The riff is the same one used on “Crazy Love,” which itself was derived from the Dickey Betts & Great Southern song “Out Ta Get Me.” You hear stock Dickey Betts licks all over Reach For The Sky which is a shame. It does make it easier to know when Dan Toler is playing since his tone remains the same as Dickey’s. Most of the fiery, hard hitting soloing is Dan’s.

Once again Dickey Betts crafted a terrific instrumental for the record. “From The Madness Of The West” is a sonic poem, traveling in the air over the American plains. The drumming is superb. Butch Trucks and Jaimoe have said this song was the only time they composed their drum parts. Their work on this track is probably the highlight of the album. Dickey Betts and Dan Toler go for the speed records during the transitional phrases between the melodic themes. It sounds like Al DiMeola jamming with the Allmans and it’s terrific. The song is marred only by Mike Lawler’s synthesizer solo. The keyboard was not meant to have its notes bent. Stop doing it. Immediately. Thank you. I now return you to Dickey and Dan. Rip it up boys.

A lot of side two suffers from the pop-rock movement desired by Arista Records. “Famous Last Words” would be a cool stomping rocker if not for the horrible synthesizer ruing the riff. “Keep On Keepin’ On”is a tune that would seem at home on one of Gregg Allman’s 80’s solo albums. It’s a solid song with a sweet guitar solo. “So Long” also sounds like it would have fared better on I’m No Angel. It’s a mournful ballad that comes alive nicely with an extended jam as a coda. Unfortunately the harmonica player sounds like he may have never heard of Little Walter, which is just criminal.

Reach For The Sky is not a great record but it is an enjoyable record. Fans clinging to the glory days of At Fillmore East will find nothing to like here. However, if you can get past the fact that Duane and Berry are dead, the music business is a business first and foremost, and sometimes you just have to do what the record company wants you might enjoy this album. You also have to get past the Keytar. Did I mention the Keytar? Stick with side one and “So Long” from side two and you won’t feel like you’ve ventured too far from “Enlightened Rogues” territory.

 

AllmanBrothersBandBrothersOfTheRoadThe Allman Brothers Band

Brothers Of The Road

Arista Records

Released August 1981

 

Gregg Allman in a Hawaiian shirt, a guy in camouflage, and no Jaimoe on the cover pretty much signifies the end of the line for most people. It looks like they took everybody from the DMV waiting room outside on a hill and took their picture. If you never got past the cover I can’t blame you. It’s horrible. But again, it is not a bad record. Yeah, maybe it’s a bad Allman Brothers record but when taken in context of the business at the time, the state of the members, and the sound and styles of their collective output – including solo albums – up to this point, it is quite Allmany. And hey, the Keytar seems to have been boxed up and sent to Hell where it belongs.

“Brothers Of The Road” starts off with some terse chords and an answering riff. The synthesizers of Reach For The Sky have been replaced with a piano, there are harmony guitars all over the place, and Dickey and Dan both put a few blisters on the fingers from the heat coming off their fretboards. This is one of my favorites from the Arista Years. “Leavin’” has a churning riff and bass line and Gregg Allman delivers a tough vocal performance. “Leavin’” is a great song and I always thought it would kick all kinds of ass in the hands of the modern line-up. “Leavin’” is also the last song performed live before the band broke up in 1982. They played the song on Saturday Night Live in January 1982 and this lineup was never heard from again. Who said “good riddance?”

Gregg Allman is the star of this record even though he only wrote three songs for it. He delivers strong performances throughout. He gives his all, even on a song like “Straight From The Heart.” Again, if you look at his solo output, you’ll see Gregg likes this kind of song – a wistful love song. Yes, it’s a little poppy, and they lip synched it on Solid Gold but why let that keep you from enjoying it? His composition “Never Knew How Much” became a staple of their live set for a while. Usually Gregg, and Dan Toler would perform it on acoustic guitars. It’s an excellent song and it too deserves your attention.

Would you like to hear the “Out Ta Get Me/Crazy Love/ I Got A Right To Be Wrong” slide riff again? You get the chance in “The Heat Is On.” If Dickey played any other slide lick, this song would be a hundred times better. He does play some nice slide fills in “Things You Used To Do” which is another solid track. Dickey did come through with some good tunes though even if his leads are lacking anything bordering on new. “The Judgment” is a barnstormer. Dickey sings his ass off. His voice is strong and proud as he sings about standing your ground.

Of the two Arista records, Brothers Of The Road is stronger. The synthesizers are almost completely absent. Mike Lawler plays a lot of piano on this record and it makes everything sound better. The songs are well crafted and played with energy you wouldn’t expect from a band in turmoil. Again, if you’re someone advocating playing At Fillmore East for the aliens when they land, you’ll probably hate this record. The moral of the story is this: the Allman Brothers Band is more than their first few albums. All of their albums have memorable moments and musical magic. You do yourself, and the band, a disservice by ignoring it.

 

AllmanBrothersBandWipeTheWindowsCheckTheOilDollarGasThe Allman Brothers Band

Wipe The Windows, Check The Oil, Dollar Gas

Capricorn Records

Released November 1976

 

Wipe The Windows, Check The Oil, Dollar Gas was shortly released after the Allman Brothers Band dissolved in a stew of acrimony, drug addiction, Federal convictions, rock star egos, and record company avarice. Unfortunately this meant the band had little or no input in their second live album. When the band broke up they were still riding the wave of popularity created by “Ramblin’ Man” and the Brothers And Sisters album. They were one of the most popular bands in the United States and were selling out stadiums around the country. To many, this was a hasty, rough-shod album slapped together to make money off the band’s name and it probably was exactly that. However it contains incredible music.

The tracks are taken from a handful of concerts recorded between December 1972 and October 1975. Sides one and two are taken from a now legendary show at Winterland in San Francisco on September 26, 1973. The full show has since been released as part of the Brothers And Sisters anniversary box set. The four songs make a tremendous case for the mid-70’s lineup of Gregg Allman, Dickey Betts, Jaimoe, Butch Trucks, Chuck Leavell, and Lamar Williams. The hard blues has been left behind and in its place is a softer, happier jazzy sound. “In Memory Of Elizabeth Reed” clocks in at 17 minutes and features extended soloing from pianist Chuck Leavell. In his hands the piece becomes a Latin jazz classic as his lines bop, dip, and swing over the caliente drumming of Trucks and Jaimoe. Dickey Betts proceeds to hold a master class in solo building that amply illustrates why he is routinely included in Greatest Guitarist lists. This is Allman Brothers Fusion at its best. “Wasted Words” spits venom in the lyrics but the music is upbeat and the band seems hell bent on having a good time. Leavell’s piano lines cascade like waterfalls and Betts lays down hot licks on slide reminiscent of his late sparring partner Duane Allman. “Ramblin’ Man” gets an extended treatment and Dickey soars with a roller coaster rush of hexatonic soloing that will leave you breathless.

“Ain’t Wastin’ Time No More” was recorded at The Warehouse in New Orleans on December 31, 1972, just two months after the loss of bassist Berry Oakley. Once again they defiantly picked themselves up and grieved through their music. Gregg Allman puts a lot of passion and pain in his singing, and Dickey Betts slide playing approaches the heavens. The album closes with a rousing version of “Jessica” that seems impossible given the bad blood in the band at the time of its recording in October 1975. I’ve heard many versions of “Jessica” over the years and while this one is not the best it is damned good and any version with Chuck Leavell is worth hearing. He gives us our money’s worth here. His piano work is supreme. This version of the band often gets over looked and while Chuck Leavell is known and loved by many fans, Lamar Williams gets almost no love. His bass playing is ferocious, funky, and harmonically interesting. He plays what every song needs and on occasion he drives the jams on Wipe The Windows… You can hear more of his great playing on the archival release Nassau Coliseum, Uniondale, NY: 5/1/73 and on the Brothers And Sisters 40th Anniversary Super Deluxe Edition Box Set.

Wipe The Windows… isn’t the heavy blues/jazz workout of At Fillmore East and it shouldn’t be. They already did that. Comparisons are ill advised and detract from the value of everything that has come since. Wipe The Windows… captures a swinging, jazzy, country-tinged, rock band at the height of its success. The record features great songs and many stunning performances from everyone in the band. To forget this album is to forget a masterful band and its beautiful music.

 

AllmanBrothersBandAnEveningWithFirstSetThe Allman Brothers Band

An Evening With The Allman Brothers Band 1st Set

Epic Records

Released June 9, 1992

 

The Allman Brothers Band returned in 1989 for a tour to support their Dreams box set and celebrate their 20th anniversary. The surviving original members Gregg Allman, Dickey Betts, Jaimoe, and Butch Trucks were joined by newcomer Allen Woody on bass and Dickey Betts Band alums Warren Haynes and Johnny Neel. Warren Haynes and Allen Woody were students of the Allman Brothers Band, wearing out the old records and learning the songs front to back. No one knew where it would go but the tour was successful, the band was happy playing powerful music again and decided to record an album – Seven Turns. After a few years and another studio record – Shades Of Two Worlds – they were feeling pretty good about the band and decided the third record from this lineup, like the original lineup, would be a live album. Keyboardist Johnny Neel was gone and percussionist Marc Quinones was added. This new lineup recorded shows in Macon, GA, Boston, MA and New York, NY for the album. The result is a blistering tour de force of improvisation that crushed any doubts that the Allman Brothers Band of old had been resurrected.

The album leans heavily on newer material, with three of nine songs coming from Shades Of Two Worlds. This shows the band was confident about their new material and they had good reason. Opener “End Of The Line” has two incredibly bad-ass riffs. Gregg Allman sings from his soul about his continuing trouble with drugs and alcohol, Warren Haynes’s slide solo sings the saddest song you’ve ever heard, and the coda has Dickey Betts and Warren Haynes sparring like Rocky Balboa and Apollo Creed. You can’t open a live album any better. “Get On With Your Life” is a modern blues classic from the band. Dickey Betts tone is so rich and thick and glorious it will make you cry.

The truly astonishing moments on this album come during “Nobody Knows.” “Nobody Knows” is one of the best songs ever recorded by the Allman Brothers Band. Its power is rivaled only by “Whipping Post” from which it drew inspiration and is a bit of a contentious point between Messrs. Allman and Betts. This fifteen minute workout extends the tune by half. If you play it too loud you may incite the apocalypse. Dickey Betts plays some of his greatest licks ever in this song. He builds crescendo after crescendo, pummeling you into submission. Just when you can’t take it anymore they kick back into the main riff just long enough for you to catch your breath and then boom goes the Warren Haynes. This is the dream team Duane and Dickey would have become if Duane lived. They are powerful, harmonic, melodic, and demonic.

Other high points include a funkier arrangement of “Southbound” with Dickey Betts singing and a colossal rending of “Dreams.” “Dreams” is a thing of beauty. It is a lullaby for giants. Warren Haynes captures the feel and spirit of Duane Allman’s original slide work and adds his own brilliance to it. Warren’s incredible talent, boundless energy, and immeasurable command of improvisation drove Dickey Betts to be a better player and in the early 90’s this guitar tandem was matchless. An Evening With The Allman Brothers Band 1st Set rarely leaves the CD player in my guitar room. It is without a doubt the Allman Brothers album I have listened to most. I love At Fillmore East and I understand its historic importance, and I agree it is one of the greatest live albums of all time, but it was a snapshot of an evolving band. They were young and still learning. If Duane Allman and Berry Oakley didn’t die who knows where it would have led? With 1st Set I think we get a pretty good glimpse of where it would have gone. The band is matured, playing better with the benefit of years on the road together and apart, and with injection of some young players the band is energetic, powerful, and soaring.

 

AllmanBrothersBandAnEveningWith2ndSetThe Allman Brothers Band

An Evening With The Allman Brothers Band 2nd Set

Epic Records

Released May 9, 1995

 

Supposedly 2nd Set was to come out shortly after 1st Set but we’re talking about the Allman Brothers Band and one constant in their universe is trouble. Dickey Betts and Gregg Allman were drinking and drugging and not getting along. Warren Haynes put out a solo album in 1993 creating speculation he was leaving the band. Dickey Betts did leave the band on occasion for various reasons, sitting out a few tours here and there. All these things led to the delay. When Dickey came back full time, the band recorded the stellar Where It All Begins album and embarked on a tour. A few dates in summer of 1994 were recorded and in 1995 came An Evening With The Allman Brothers Band 2nd Set. This time four of eight songs would be from the latest album.

The baddassery begins with the thunderous drop-D riffing of “Sailin’ ‘Cross The Devil’s Sea.” Gregg Allman is in strong voice, belting out his tale of woe and Warren Haynes slides up and down the fretboard. Percussionist Marc Quinones adds dramatically to this song with his accents and flourishes. Betts and Haynes have the gain turned way up and the tones are as nasty as Tijuana toilet seat. “You Don’t Love Me” is shortened considerably from its At Fillmore East version and it is all the better for it. The Brothers deliver six and a half minutes of barnstorming blues, with Dickey and Warren upping the ante bar after bar. “Soulshine” has taken on a life of its own since its emergence. This live version is uplifting and heartbreaking and the interwoven solos at the end with cut you to the core. This is music as release; pure and simple.

“In Memory Of Elizabeth Reed” is an acoustic performance and is simply brilliant. The recording is crystal clear and Allen Woody manages to bring the thunder even on acoustic bass. The Latin feel of the song lends itself to an acoustic arrangement and the band exceeds already high expectations for this song. Warren Haynes takes lead vocal on his arrangement of Willie Dixon’s “The Same Thing.” The arrangement features harmony guitars and riffs never heard in the original. It is a terrific re-write; at once a blues standard and Allman Brothers classic. The disc closes with the Grammy winning performance of “Jessica.” For as much as I love the Betts/Haynes duo, I still can’t get all the way into “Jessica” without Chuck Leavell. This is an epic version but it’s all guitar, and I can’t believe I’m saying this, but it’s got to have piano. I’d take the version from Wipe The Windows… over this one any day.

While this album is full of intense music, the best part for me is “Back Where It All Begins.” Dickey’s peaceful ode to the band’s audience turns into a churning juggernaut of full-band musical exploration. “Back Where It All Begins” is a perfect song. The melody is catchy, the structure is simple, and the lyrics invite a singalong. For my money, this song contains Warren Haynes’ greatest guitar solo. He spent years as an apprentice with David Allan Coe and in Dickey Betts Band. He came into the Allman Brothers as the hot young guitarist, fired up and ready to go. He went toe to toe with the master night after night and in “Back Where It All Begins” he brings everything he learned together in one epic solo that became part of the DNA of the song. Live he stretches the solo out but the changes from the studio version feel like they should have been there all along. He builds his solo to a crescendo and signals its end with a dynamic motif based on the main melody and chords of the bridge. It is brilliant. I almost feel bad for Dickey Betts having to follow it, but it’s Dickey Betts. He rises to the occasion beautifully. The heights achieved in this song and this album are a fitting cap on the legacy of this lineup.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Throwback Thursday: Devon Allman – On The Cigar Box Guitar and Breaking All the Rules

With the Allman Brothers Band calling it quits this year and winding down in New York City this week and next, I thought we’d take the opportunity on Throwback Thursday to look backward and forward with this piece by Maureen Elizabeth. It was previously published at our alma mater American Blues News.

Maureen spoke with Devon Allman who quite organically found his way to the family business. Devon is making music on his own terms and like his father’s band, he cannot be pigeonholed into one genre. He makes music. Honest, soulful music done with integrity, care, and skill. In that way he is carrying the family tradition into the 21st Century. So as the Allman Brothers Band disappears into the distance, we can rest assured Devon Allman will be out there making music for years to come. Remember to check out our review of his tremendous new album Ragged & Dirty.

Alright Bicuiteers, step into the WABAC machine and hold on to your hats…

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Inspired? Yes. Intentional? Not really. Beautiful? Absolutely. Devon Allman’s first evening spent with his own cigar box guitar inspired a melody in a quiet moment that soon became a fan favorite – “Yadira’s Lullaby.” Devon spoke with American Blues News about how the gift of his cigar box guitar reconnected two families and the excitement of playing an instrument that has no rules…

When was your first introduction to the cigar box guitar?

It’s kind of a funny genesis. I was playing a show in Tennessee and I have a fan who comes to all the Tennessee shows. He had mentioned on a fan site that he was going to be bringing a gift for me and I thought “cool!” He came to the show and my assistant brought him backstage. He has this thing in his hands and I said “what do you have there, Jim?” And he pulls it out and he said “man, this thing, I just have a feeling that you are really going to dig this” and he gave me this cigar box guitar. I was blown away! I had never seen anything like it. I had always been a pretty traditional guitar player and I just sat there immediately and started plucking away at it. I just fell in love with it.

What is it about it that attracts you?

I don’t know, I think just… visually – it is so unique – there’s no doubt about that. And when you play it the tonality of it is so Americana and I really dig that aspect of it. The guitar is such a standardized thing – you have a certain body style and neck radius and number of frets- and this kinda’ breaks all the rules.

From what I am hearing, that seems to be a large part of the appeal….

It’s cool – especially with getting down to 3 or 4 strings. It really makes you think differently, melodically, and I found that you can pop on the top string with your thumb and hold the base line while you get melodic with the other strings – it’s a cool approach.

It offers something a little different – a little new…

Definitely.

I would be curious to know your opinion – what do you attribute this renewed interest in the cigar box guitar?

I don’t know what to attribute it to, really, because the dynamic of people being attracted to something is so fleeting – people are fickle, you know – it’s one thing and then it’s on to the next. For me, I would think that the simplicity of the instrument and the unique look definitely draw people in. Once you play it- the different vibes that it embodies are definitely astounding – it can bluesy, it can be country, it can be swampy, it can be classical and that is pretty cool.

That’s amazing for one instrument.

Yes. Obviously, the guitar can be all of those things too but typically, when you have a brother or a sister of a guitar…let’s talk about mandolin, let’s talk about banjo, those instruments pretty much lean into one venue of music whether its bluegrass with a banjo, or folk music with a mandolin. The cigar box guitar crosses all genres and when I held it I fell in love with it right there. Later that night I was talking to my girlfriend on Skype – I was on tour in 7 cities-and I just wanted to show her the guitar because I was so jazzed about it. I literally wrote a tune on the spot as a lullaby to put her to sleep and it’s crazy how that song has become a fan favorite. It’s going to be on the next album. The cigar box guitar instantly inspired me to do something that I would have never done which is write a lullaby! Rockers don’t write lullabies! (Laughing) But- personal reasons aside- musically, and on an esthetic level, I was so pleased to be able to do something as simple as a lullaby. And to actually have it be something personal and poignant is cool but to also have it as worthy to put on an album or worthy to pull this out and play on the stage live and get such a crazy response has been a win, win. When I pull the cigar box guitar out you can hear the cat calls from the crowd – “what is that thing?” It’s absolutely a joy to play.

It is inspiring then?

Definitely, definitely! The fan that gave me the guitar put me in touch with its creator, Travis Woodall, and strangely enough Travis’ Uncle was really great friends with my Dad who obviously has been a musician for a long, long time in the Allman Brothers. So it was cool to make contact with Travis and know that our families were connected 30 years ago when we were kids!

There’s a lot to be said for serendipity!

The guy that was stuffing those boxes over in Honduras or over in Cuba 30 years ago -how would he know that this box would become an instrument that would bridge two families and inspire a song- that’s crazy! It’s just cool. The cigar box guitar phenomena –is very much under the radar. But I think that it is just healthy for music you know, it’s doing something a little bit different – it’s shaking things up- and that’s how I feel when I pull it out live and people go “holy cow what it is this thing?”

Maybe people are searching for something new and different- it gives you that little sense of awe because you don’t know what it is or what it can do…

The first time I ever saw one was on Beale Street in Memphis. There was a street performer out there – he is actually kind of known as the most popular street performer in the world – Richard Johnston. BI saw him sitting on the side of the street on Beale Street with a cigar box guitar with 2 or 3 strings – I can’t remember – and he had a kick drum that he worked with his right foot and a snare drum that he worked with his left foot. His thumb was working the base string and his fingers were working the melody and he had a microphone and he’s singing. He was drums, base, guitar, and vocal – a one man band! He was absolutely killing it – he must have had 100 people in a circle around him and he had these huge, these comically huge, cowboy boots that he was using as a tip jar -they were like size 15 and looked like they belonged to Kareem Abdul Jabir!  People were pulling out 20 dollar bills, 10 dollar bills – I know this guy was sitting on a grand right there and it was all because, well… number one because he kicked ass and number two because it was such a unique display! That was my first ever encounter with cigar box madness and it stuck with me.

That would leave an impression!

Richard is a great guy. He’s a monster. You know – people from Japan pay him to go over there and do the exact same street show in Tokyo. I played with him a few years ago and we’ve been text buddies ever since – he’s a great performer.

Have you built, or do you intend to build, your own?

You know, funny enough, once this fan had introduced me to Travis we just got along famously, instantly. I told him -dude it would be neat to have a double neck! He came to a show and brought me a different one – I had a 3 string and he brought me a 4 string and when I started plucking away at it I said “wow, this is an ENTIRELY different sound than the 3 string!” The 3 string was more swampy – more like a base and the 4 string was more like – I don’t even know- more of a twangy – I got more of a Led Zeppelin, Jimmy Page kind of vibe out of it – so I thought it would be so awesome to have both of those sounds on one guitar – what about a double neck -3 strings on one neck and 4 on the other? He made it in a month.

And how is it?

It’s a monster! Travis is really, really good in creating these instruments – they are not shoddy in any way. They don’t fuzz out or fret out. He installs the electronics perfectly– when you plug it in it sounds great and that’s the thing. One thing I was really concerned about once I plugged it onto my amp was- how was it going to sound true- how it does it sound acoustically and would there be feedback problems- which there wasn’t.

For something that‘s kind of “kitschy” -like a cigar box guitar- that may not play or sound as well; that’s more just kind of a novelty than an actual playable instrument – it kills! It’s really, really good! I foresaw writing some material on the 4 string and then I started thinking for the live show -it would kind of suck to pull out the 3 string and play the lullaby and then go to the 4 string and play something else – it would be neat if it was all in one.

And without rules it can all be accomplished – you just have to ask!

He was really great and I think his company has a really bright future – it’s nice when someone like Travis has it together that young and can stay under the auspices of his own creation – if he sold out to some company tomorrow they could easily drag the quality down.

And the fact that he is an artist creating something and therefore putting a piece of himself, his soul, into it there is an intimate connection that raises the value not just in terms of money but as in what has been created.

Absolutely, because you are making art on this piece of art. When you mass produce it you lose that soul. It’s like if you go to a store and you buy a thousand dollar Gibson Les Paul- yeah, it’s a nice guitar but if you buy the $5,000 custom shop -you’re not just paying for the name “Custom Shop” – you are paying for the guys who take the time, use the finest material and instead of cranking out 500 guitars in a factory that day – they maybe cranked out 5. And that attention to detail is what gets lost when these companies get big. That is my wish for him – that as he grows he keeps that personal touch.

When I was talking to Travis about the resurgence in popularity of the cigar box guitar he talked about how people turn to music no matter what the hardship is they are facing and that this instrument is a bridge for people who have always wanted to play but felt they couldn’t or couldn’t afford to. So it becomes that accessible instrument that anyone, really ANYONE, can hang on to –if they want to produce a little bit of music in their backyard.

It’s true. Somebody picks up a guitar for the first time – if it only has three strings – it’s a little less intimidating. You can kind of pluck away at it without thinking what should I do with all these other strings?

When you pick up the cigar box guitar what does it do for you?

It’s something different. If I had to give it a really lame analogy- it’s like if you already drove a really great car- say you drove a really nice Cadillac every day – you love it, you’re used to it, you’re comfortable in it but then you get to go off road in a really cool jeep – it’s a completely different feeling. Well, that’s how it is grabbing the cigar box guitar- it’s just kind of… there’s no rules… it’s a nice diversion.

So getting back to my earlier question…would you ever build one yourself?

You mean physically, with my own hands? (Laughing) Oh no, no, no, I don’t build them -I just play them! I’ll leave that to Travis!

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Fresh Biscuits! New Releases For July 29, 2014

It’s another slow week Biscuiteers. Apparently July is not a big month this year for new blues releases. There are two very exciting live CD new releases this week though. First is the latest installment in Johnny Winter‘s Live Bootleg series. We lost Johnny on July 16, 2014 and he will be sorely missed. The Live Bootleg series, from Volume 1 to this new Volume 11, is a great way to remember why we loved him. I pre-ordered mine from Amazon and can’t wait for the mail tomorrow.

Another archival live release is the sprawling 6 CD set from The Allman Brothers Band. The 1971 Fillmore East Recordings features live recording from the shows on the weekend of March 12-13, 1971 that gave us the legendary At Fillmore East album plus their show from the closing of the Fillmore East on June 27, 1971. This is not strictly blues, but they explored the outer reaches of blues and jazz improvisation like no band before or after and influenced blues players everywhere.

Rounding out this week is a reissue with bonus tracks from Monkeyjunk. This is a reissue of their 2009 debut Tiger In Your Tank.

With the passing of Johnny Winter and The Allman Brothers Band bringing its career to an end this year, we are reminded we should get out there and see our favorite performers while we still can. Hopefully Monkeyjunk will keep going for a while. Get out there and see them!

Fresh Biscuits – July 28, 2014

JohnnyWinterBootlegSeries11
Johnny Winter – Live Bootleg Series Volume 11

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Allman Brothers Band The 1971 Fillmore East Recordings
AllmanBrothers1971FillmoreRecordingsSet
6 CD Edition, 3 Blu Ray audio discs, or 4 LPs (which appear to be a partial sample of the set)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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MonkeyJunk – Tiger In Your Tank (reissue + 2 bonus tracks)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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