Gregg Allman: The Other Side of this Life (Relix Revisited)
On the record, Gregg sings âFloating Bridgeâ with powerful, full-throated emotion, a dramatic contrast to the plaintive country blues singing he uses when accompanying himself with guitar. His facility with such a wide range of vocal styles is the result of his ability to inhabit the material he sings about rather than just copy it. Gregg is inside every song on Low Country Blues.
âThatâs exactly what it feels like,â he says. âI always felt like that even when I was a kid. Iâd hear a song or see a movie and I would live it. It felt like it was going right through me.â
Indeed, the emotions Gregg plumbs on Low Country Blues are the product of his life experiences. He agrees that he probably couldnât have sung these songs as well if he were a younger man.
âI think it includes the wisdom of growing older,â he says, reflecting on the albumâs general tenor. "I could have made a reasonable facsimile at best when I was younger. The notes might have been in the right places, but it wouldnât have been [what Low Country Blues sounds like]. You learn about it as you grow older â just like everything else. âI wonder how I would have done this back in â69. Why didnât I do this right out of the box, ya know? Itâs like being an architect. You get better at what youâre doing. You learn by doing. Just like a record producer. The more you do the better you get.â
Photo by Danny Clinch
Most of the songs on Low Country Blues deal with courting and losing women, experiences Gregg is well versed in after being married and divorced so many times in his life.
âI guess I just wasnât meant to be with one woman,â he says with a shrug. âBut Iâll always keep trying.â
During the course of the conversation, Gregg recalls his early inspirations â many sang about broken hearts, fractured relationships and missed opportunities. These were artists such as B.B. King, Howlinâ Wolf, Muddy Waters and John Lee Hooker that he heard as a kid on WLAC, the radio station out of Tennessee that came on at night and played blues. When he started out playing music, he says that singing was the last thing he wanted to do â he played guitar â but that the choice between a job doing manual labor or music forced him into it. Soon after, he discovered singingâs pure emotional quality.
âTo change the tone of an instrument, you have to do something physically,â Gregg says. âA whole lot of emotion goes into playing but singing, itâs actually part of your body. It comes to you right off the brain; it doesnât have to go through an instrument to come out.â
He does, however, remember the impact of hearing one particular instrumentalist early on â the jazz organist Jimmy Smith. âFor years, I fantasized playing a Hammond like he did,â he says. âI didnât actually see Jimmy Smith until right before he died. He was 76 years old. I went to see him one night in New York City and it was something else, man. His hands were a little slow, but his feet hadnât slowed a bit. All he needed was a drummer and his feet. He played more shit on them pedals than anybody. I couldnât believe it. And he had this Hammond organ with two Leslie cabinets that rotated at different speeds. And he had this I-donât-give-a-shit attitude. Somebody called out for âBack at the Chicken Shackâ â one of those burners â and he said, âGoddamn! Ease up on that. Iâm 76 years old,ââ Gregg laughs.