Rounder Records has announced the release date for Gregg Allman’s final studio album, Southern Blood, as Friday, September 8th. Special pre-order bundles are underway at GreggAllman.com which include a variety of merch options and limited edition pressings of the album. On August 4th, a limited edition numbered double-sided picture disc will be available at some local record shops to be announced or with online pre-orders.
Southern Blood serves as a remarkable final testament from an artist whose contributions have truly shaped rock and roll throughout the past four decades. Allman passed away on May 27th at the age of 69 from compilations of liver cancer. Allman’s first all-new recording since 2011’s GRAMMY Award-nominated solo landmark, Low Country Blues, the album is among the most uniquely personal of the Rock & Roll Hall of Famer’s career, an emotionally expansive collection of songs written by friends and favorite artists including Jackson Browne, Willie Dixon, Jerry Garcia & Robert Hunter, Lowell George and Spooner Oldham & Dan Penn, meant to serve as a salutary farewell to his legion of devoted fans and admirers. Allman collaborated on his closing project with manager and dear friend Michael Lehman and GRAMMY Award-winning producer Don Was, a longtime acquaintance and staunch supporter committed to helping the rock icon actualize his very specific aspirations.
“As his producer, I was dedicated to helping Gregg crystallize his vision for the record and to help make sure that this vision made it to the tape,” says Was. “He was a musical hero of mine and, in later years, had become a good friend. The gravitas of this particular situation was not lost on me. Gregg was a sweet, humble man with a good heart and good intentions and it was a great honor to help him put his musical affairs in order and say a proper farewell.”
Allman, well aware his time was short, approached the project with an unambiguously realistic agenda. High atop his list of goals was to capture the sound of the ultimate Gregg Allman Band in full flight, considering them the tightest knit combo of all the line-ups that had backed him over his 40+ year solo career.
“Gregg was very excited to be in the studio,” says Lehman. “He was especially thrilled to be recording this studio album with his solo band – he was so proud of them and loved the sound that they produced together. Gregg felt close to every single one of them. The Gregg Allman Band was like a family or a well oiled machine, always knowing what the other band members were thinking and doing.”
A further key to Allman’s vision for Southern Blood was his decision to record at the world-renowned Fame Studios in Muscle Shoals, AL. Alongside its own fabled history, the legendary studio occupied a momentous place in Allman’s personal back pages.
“A constant discussion during all of my nearly 15 years working with Gregg was his desire to return to Muscle Shoals,” Lehman says. “He always would talk about how he needed to get back to Fame Studios to bring him full circle.”
“Muscle Shoals is hallowed musical ground,” says Was. “Fame was the place where Gregg’s brother Duane first started making waves in the music world and where the earliest seeds of The Allman Brothers Band were sown in a back room during their first, seminal rehearsals. Duane’s presence is still ubiquitous in that building. Recording there was Gregg’s way of making his spirit a part of this album, in the same way that his spirit continued to be part of Gregg’s life.”
“As his producer, I was dedicated to helping Gregg crystallize his vision for the record and to help make sure that this vision made it to the tape.”
Brother Duane’s presence courses through Southern Blood, from Jackson Browne’s “Song For Adam” – the final verse of which Was says reminded Gregg of his older brother’s premature passing – to the funk-fried “Blind Bats and Swamp Rats,” originally found on the Duane-produced Ton-Ton Macoute!, a lost classic from left-handed blues guitarist Johnny Jenkins. Allman, Was, and Lehman spent significant time plotting out Southern Blood, carefully selecting material that would capture the moment and simultaneously serve as a synopsis of an undeniably extraordinary life. Songs like Bob Dylan’s haunting “Going, Going Gone” and Tim Buckley’s immortal “Once I Was” allowed Allman a chance to look back over his time on Earth while also pondering the journey that lay ahead.
Southern Blood is highlighted by one of the most candid tracks of his long songwriting career, “My Only True Friend,” co-written with Gregg Allman Band guitarist/musical director Scott Sharrard. “‘My Only True Friend’ was Gregg’s attempt to contextualize the course of his life,” says Was. “The man that his fans saw performing onstage was the essential Gregg Allman – he was whole and truly satisfied when he was up there playing music. The trials and troubles he faced in life were mostly the result of not knowing what to do with himself in between shows. In this song, he’s addressing a woman and explaining that, although he loves her and doesn’t want to face living his life alone, being away on the road and performing every night is his lifeblood. If you understand this about Gregg Allman, every other aspect of his life makes complete sense.”
“Gregg was thrilled that the sound in his head was manifesting itself on the tape,” Was says. “He didn’t have all the lungpower of his younger self, but we felt that these raw, weathered performances were honest and compelling. We all agreed to leave them as they were on the day they were recorded. In the spirit of Laid Back, Gregg wanted to hear things like background harmony vocals and reverb on his voice but this album is essentially a documentary of our two weeks in the studio.”
Rich with emotional texture, historical connectivity, and purity of performance, Southern Blood would be a landmark Gregg Allman record under any circumstance, its powerful subject matter and passionate presentation as emblematic an expression of his distinctive art as any prior work in the Allman canon. Though his loss leaves a vast musical space that can never truly be filled, Southern Blood stands tall as a remarkable valedictory and memorial to a true giant of American music, now and forever.
A Deluxe Edition CD/DVD will contain two live bonus tracks recorded in 2016, a 12″ x 12″ portrait poster and bonus DVD with Back to the Swamp: The Making of Southern Blood.
- My Only True Friend (Gregg Allman-Scott Sharrard)
- Once I Was (Tim Buckley-Larry Beckett)
- Going Going Gone (Bob Dylan)
- Black Muddy River (Jerome J. Garcia-Robert C. Hunter)
- I Love the Life I Live (Willie Dixon)
- Willin’ (Lowell George)
- Blind Bats and Swamp Rats (Jack Avery)
- Out of Left Field (Dewey Lindon Oldham Jr.-Dan Penn)
- Love Like Kerosene (Scot Sharrard)
- Song for Adam featuring Jackson Browne (Jackson Browne)