It's hard to review the album of a recently departed artist — especially someone as prolific and beloved as Gregg Allman — and not feel like your glasses are a bit too rosy for a sober assessment of the work.
Allman's death this May left a hole in the Southern rock world, and brought memories of dearly loved Allman Brothers Band concerts flooding back to those of us lucky enough to have enjoyed a few. Allman had plenty of solo albums under his belt, too, but in recent years these were few and far between, the last one released in 2011, after a 14-year break. So after hearing of his passing, it softened the blow to know there was one last Gregg Allman recording to delve into.
Sentimentality aside, this album is a fitting swan song. Recorded in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, it's a fine collection of songs sung by a truly great singer. Unlike many rockers of a certain age, Allman's voice never faded, and while he may not have been belting these songs out with the usual raw power, his singing is as sweet and soulful as ever.
Allman penned many a memorable song over the years (think "Midnight Rider"), but was also a great interpreter of others' material across the blues, rock and folk genres. There is only one original on this album, "My Only True Friend," co-written with guitarist Scott Sharrard. The rest are poignant covers by the likes of Jackson Browne, Bob Dylan and Tim Buckley, some that speak directly to a melancholy look back on a full yet tumultuous life. Others, like the Grateful Dead's "Black Muddy River" and Little Feat's "Willin,'" are sweet enough to paint a grin a mile wide across your face. The horn section really makes these songs pop, as do great backup vocals throughout.
There's nothing groundbreaking or surprising about this last record — it's classic Gregg Allman — which is exactly why it's a sweet, solid note to go out on. I'd say we're mighty lucky he gave it one more kick at the can. RIP. (Rounder)