Feeling The Bitter Sweet Anticipation Of Gregg Allman’s Farewell Album
There's nothing like the feeling of excitement knowing one of your favorite artists is about to release a brand new album. When it comes to Gregg Allman's upcoming solo album, however, the feeling will be bittersweet.
I just read an article on Allman by David Browne in the August 24th issue of Rolling Stone that confirmed what I had been wondering. Allman already knew he was dying by the time he began recording his final album 'Southern Blood' at Muscle Shoals, Alabama; the same studio where his career began nearly 50 years ago. On May 26th Allman was able to listen to almost half of the completed album at his home in Savannah, Georgia. One day later he was gone. He succumbed to complications from liver cancer at the age of 69.
It had been a five-year fight for Allman and he did put up a fight for quite a while. In fact, he had already lived past his doctor's prognosis by over a year. After a liver transplant in 2010 it seemed Allman would be in the clear but two years later the cancer came back and spread into his lungs. At that point he had an option to go with radiation but passed. According to Allman's manager Michael Lehman Gregg told the doctors, family, friends and bandmates that he was going to do what he loved to do: be with his family and be on the road with the fans.
Allman's hope was to write a batch of all new original songs for 'Southern Blood' but a busy touring schedule and recurring health setbacks forced him to scrap that idea. What he would choose instead will turn out to be just as good and just as powerful. He chose to record mostly covers of songs by artists including Jackson Browne, Bob Dylan and Grateful Dead; all artists with a special connection to Allman. The songs he decided to cover were chosen carefully in order to tell his life story the way he wanted.
The most powerful track on 'Southern Blood', however, may end up being the only original. Allman and his bandleader Scott Sharrard wrote and recorded the album's opening track "My Only True Friend", a song that may go down as one of Allman's best ever. For Allman, the lyrics were all about time running out but there's more to this story than even Allman knew. Sharrard didn't tell Allman at the time but he wrote the lyrics in the voice of Duane talking to his little brother Gregg. Sharrard chose not to tell Gregg out of fear that it would "spook" Gregg. Reading the lyrics and hearing Gregg deliver his soulful vocals are guaranteed to give you the chills.
Gregg Allman's 'Southern Blood' is due out September 8th. Count me among those who will buy it. I expect sweet music to my ears and bitter sadness to my soul.