This year marks the 45th and what many say will be the last year for on of the foundational bands of the southern rock genre The Allman Brothers.
The Allman Brothers were at one time a band made up literally of Allman brothers, but since then have showcased some of the finest musicians while combining jam band ethics with country rock blues and a lot of blazing slide guitar. Most recently, those legendary guitar licks have been provided by Warren Haynes and Derek Trucks. Both of whom recently announced their intent to leave the band at the end of the year to focus on other projects. Haynes will focus on his band Govt Mule. While Derek Trucks, who is also the nephew of one of the founding members Butch Trucks, will leave the band to pursue more work with his wife Susan Tedechi.
All these relations make it sound like a family band and that’s exactly what the Allmans were. They had feuds like families and dysfunction that often times wound up in court rooms but fortunately the heart of the family has survived to give us some lasting sounds that make up some important chapters in the American songbook.
Personally I was very slow to embrace Trucks and Haynes as members of the band but grew to appreciate the modern sensibilities they brought to some of the band’s epic compositions. Expanding when the sound needed uplifting and providing arched feeling during more sublime moments. Following the band for many of their four decades, I rarely was disappointed in their performance though song selection did carry some disappointments occasionally. This was usually the result of the physical condition of Gregg Allman, who along with Jaimoe Johanson and Uncle Butch Trucks, have endured as constants throughout the band’s history.
However with the departure of Trucks and Haynes, Gregg Allman confirmed this year as the band’s last. It’s an end to true pioneers of musical frontiers. The band reached their commercial and creative zenith with their epic 1971 release “At Fillmore East.” The album, which ranks as the standard bearer for all things jam band, is one of the finest documents of a band at its peak. It was shortly after this landmark recording that the music world lost one of its true visionaries when Duane Allman died in a tragic motorcycle accident. Soon after that original bassist for the band Berry Oakley passed away and the band appeared to be on the brink of extinction; however, their spirit proved to be as resilient as their masterpieces like “Melissa,” Blue Sky” and “One Way Out” (all of which were on the same post deaths’ release- Brothers and Sisters).
Like family, the band has endured through heartaches, troubled marriages, successful marriages and little to no radio airplay in the past several years, but they continue to sell out their annual run of shows at New York’s Beacon Theater as well as draw massive crowds into their forty-fifth year as performers. The true Americana sound that mixes deep southern gospel vocals with jazzy interludes invokes a comfort in one’s ears of sunny days playing Frisbee on the shores of a flowing river. It’s native to the soil yet flowing in the amber waves.
The band has endured and you aught do yer best to see them before they are gone. But if you can’t, just put on “At Fillmore East” and close your eyes and see if you can catch that Frisbee.