Alan Paul: One Way Out, The Inside History of the Allman Brothers Band (Book Review)
In the opening note of One Way Out, The Inside History of the Allman Brothers Band author Alan Paul admits to being a fan of the group he says, “has no equals.” It’s one of a few times where his opinion of the Brothers and the music they've made for 45 years finds its way into his 400-page chronicle. Instead, he chooses to wisely let this legendary American rock and roll institution tell their own story: One Way Out uncovers the complexity, drama, and inner workings of a layered, tragically afflicted group as well as any oral recollection could.
Laid out chronologically, the tome is constructed as a linear stream of interview excerpts from all of the living main players and those pertinent to its narrative, including many who are now deceased. A veteran journalist, Paul balances the points of contention that arise, such as conflicting memories or genuine disagreements, by placing the competing quotes side-by-side, leaving it ultimately for the reader to arbitrate. It is another adroit decision that for any fan of The Allman Brothers Band deepens the discussion rather than imposes final judgment. At the core of the book's success and struggle is the relationship between the band and Dickey Betts, one that Gregg Allman touched on somewhat diplomatically in last year’s autobiography. Here, it is given far more attention as fellow founding bandmates Butch Trucks, Jaimoe and Betts himself, among others, offer their respective views, which results in a detailed and at times, caustic portrayal.
The dynamics that fueled and sustained this undeniable force that is that The Allman Brothers Band are best understood and explained only by those embroiled in both the group's positive and negative energies, and even they sometimes have difficulty understanding and explaining it. Certainly, all can agree that the vision of the late Duane Allman was for a musical means of free expression—of the blues, of race and revolution, and of brotherhood. Paul’s One Way Out excels in encouraging and presenting that same freedom of expression when the subject in focus is the band itself.