All My Friends: Celebrating The Songs & Voice Of Gregg Allman

Rounder Records

Rounder Records

“Give ‘em flowers while they can still smell ‘em.”

True and wise words for us all to remember: if you can say “Thank you” or “We love you” while the person you’re saying it to can still hear you, do it.

In Gregg Allman’s case, one hopes there are many years’ worth of songs filling the air yet to come, but at this point in time – 2014 being the 45th anniversary of the Allman Brothers Band (and the band’s future unclear) – pausing to show appreciation for the man’s contributions to the soundtrack of life is a good thing.

And so it was that an amazing cast of players gathered at the Fox Theatre in Atlanta, GA on 1/10/14 to pay tribute to Mr. Allman; and the new three-disc (double CD/single DVD) All My Friends – Celebrating The Songs & Voice Of Gregg Allman from Rounder Records does a great job of putting you right in the thick of it.

Whether it be baseball or music, anytime you assemble an all-star lineup, there’s always going to be debate on who was chosen vs. who wasn’t. One thing’s for sure regarding the All My Friends evening, however: the house band was incredible. Don Was doubled up as musical director and bassist, tending the engine room with drummer Kenny Aronoff. Chuck Leavell’s distinctive piano and Rami Jaffee’s big-assed B-3 organ sound were complemented by Jimmy Hall’s soulful blues harp. The McCrary Sisters (Regina, Ann and Alfreda) were on hand to add tasty layers of vocal warmth. Hornmen Jim Hoke (sax), Vinnie Ciecielski (trumpet), and trombonist John Hinchey helped drive home the grooves and crank up the emotions. And at the core of it all were veteran guitarists Jack Pearson and Audley Freed, two players who have never been spotlight-seekers, but have made every musical situation they’ve been a part of a better one. (More on them both in a bit.)

With 26 performances featuring numerous combinations of guests (including two tunes by the present-day Allman Brothers Band) representing multiple musical genres, there’s basically something for everybody on All My Friends – a tribute in itself to Gregg Allman’s influence. We’ll take a look at a few highlights; the bottom line is, this is a great document of musical history.

Nastiest Bass Run Of The Night: Dan Was’ fatbacked tones that lead the way into the final verse of “Stand Back”. Short and sweet, but perfect. Berry Oakley would’ve loved it. Susan Tedeschi takes the lead vox on this one, with husband Derek Trucks joining the house band on guitar.

Coolest “Duane ‘n’ Dickey” Flash: Audley Freed and Jack Pearson on “One Way Out” when the band falls away, leaving them to blast some vintage-flavored licks back and forth.

Best Example Of “That’s All It Takes”: Sam Moore comes out for “Please Call Home”, steps up to the mic with just Chuck Leavell’s piano in the background and goes, “Well …” There’s more soul in that one word than many achieve in a lifetime of trying. And wait until you hear the rest of the song.

Biggest “What The Hell Was That All About?” Moment: Let’s face it: “Ain’t Wastin’ Time No More” would be a tough cover for anyone to tackle. The original version was the opening cut on Eat A Peach and felt like Gregg Allman’s mantra in the wake of his brother Duane’s death. (Although things actually ended up taking a turn for the blacker.) So whether country star Eric Church’s performance was fueled by nerves or natural energy, it does come off feeling a bit over-the-top. It’s obvious on the DVD, but even the audio version delivers the essence of Church’s passionate-in-the-wrong-places vocal. (Add in the tippy-toed arm waving and quivering shoulders and it’s pretty amazing.) At the same time …

Best Humble Guitar Hero Moment: There are actually too many instances of brilliance on the part of Jack Pearson to discuss: his slow dance with Hall’s harp on “Melissa”; his channeling of Duane Allman on “Statesboro Blues”; the swap-offs with Derek Trucks on “Stand Back”; his jazzbo excursion on “Let This Be A Lesson To Ya” … just for starters. But if you had to single out one tune from 1/10/14 to best describe Pearson’s ability and attitude, “Ain’t Wastin’ Time” would have to be it. He puts his own spin on the mid-song break (Dickey Betts was on slide for the original, post-Duane), then takes off on a flight path of his own on the outro. The solo is powerful, yet tasteful; Pearson takes his time building the beast, topping things off with a salvo fired from somewhere around the bridge pickup on the treble string. As amazing as it is to listen to, I’m sorry: you gotta watch the video, as well. Pearson looks like he’s waiting for the bus while everyone else in the Fox Theatre is picking their jaw up off the floor.

Keep on reading! Click right here to read the rest of my review of All My Friends on Jambands.com

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