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Allman Brothers – One Way Out

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To be perfectly honest, I didn’t pick up the new live album One Way Out because I’m a huge fan of the Allman Brothers. I picked it up for much the same reason I got last year’s studio album, Hittin’ The Note – the presence of slide-guitar monster Derek Trucks and equally monstrous bassist Oteil Burbridge.

The Allmans are one of those bands whose music has infiltrated the musical landscape – classic rock stations play their old hits on a pretty regular basis. It was pretty easy to ignore it when I was younger – it was just southern rock, and all I could see was a bunch of drugged out hippies sittin’ round jamming on the front porch complete with that big guy in the overalls hunched over and blowin’ into a jug. Of course, the generalization is wildly inaccurate – on the surface the Allman Bros. may invoke jaded images like that, but upon closer inspection this is music more closely related to the blues and even jazz at times than rock.

How many times have you heard “Midnight Rider”? I know I heard it so often I thought I’d never want to hear it again. And yet somehow the version on One Way Out is so invigorating it’s like a new song. Truck’s slide work howls from your left speakers and more often than not I found myself transfixed by his playing. Burbridge’s bass work rarely takes center stage, instead burbling insistently in the background and providing a thick, meaty foundation. While the older material may not be the most challenging for such a tremendously talented bassist, every note and lick oozes with evidence of his proficiency.

The tendency for bands like this – bands that are known for their jamming – is to just rely on jamming, period. This has always been my problem, I find that most of the bands who jam simply lack the chops and taste to maintain my interest for long as they fall back on repetition and simple variations of riffs. The Allman Bros. perfected the art of jamming long ago, and One Way Out doesn’t lack for it. Numerous tracks venture past the 10 minute mark, but don’t drag on so long that you forget what song you’re even listening to. Along with the Brothers’ hallmark jam, “Whipping Post,” the band stretches out on newer tracks like Hittin’ The Note‘s “Instrumental Illness” (16 minutes of it!) and “Desdemona,” but it’s the jazzy change-ups of “Woman Across The River” that fascinates me no end. I can’t get enough of the band slipping from up-tempo to down-tempo blues during the chorus, and then turning it right back around with a catchy little motif that’s repeated throughout the tune – I could have listened to a lot more of this than the just under seven minutes provided on One Way Out.

I’ve always been intrigued by the two-drummer system employed by the Allmans – “why is this necessary?” I often wondered. On a cursory examination, the drumwork appears to be pretty straight-ahead – and maybe that’s simply an unfortunate side-effect of listening to radio hits – but live the rhythm section is dense and complex, with each drummer filling in around the other. Heck, there’s even room for a separate percussionist. You’d think all this drumming would overload the mix, but it doesn’t – Butch Trucks (Derek’s cousin) occupies the right half of the auditory field and Jaimoe fills out the left with percussion bits peeking out in between the two. What could be an aural mess is just the opposite. The mix on One Way Out is fantastic – so clear that everyone’s parts are exquisitely defined, each being given plenty of room and space and yet it never sounds weak. One Way Out is just plain fun to listen to. An incredible concert and the beautiful presentation assure this will rank as one of my favorite releases of the year.

(Try this way out to Unproductivity.)

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About Tom Johnson

  • http://www.iamcorrect.blogspot.com Lono

    um, how could you get through a piece on the Allmans without mentioning the greatest working guitarist in all of rock and roll, Warren Haynes. I figured I missed something in the piece and so I did a control F and surely there wasn’t even a mention of Haynes.

    Warren Haynes is a god!

    Thanks,
    lono

  • Chris Kent

    Tom,

    This is an excellent post on one the greatest bands of all time, and I think you have hit the nail on the head with several points. Trying to mention every band member, each one carrying their own level of brilliance, is akin to mentioning every cast member of Cats. Someone is gonna get left out…..

    As Greg Allman used to say to Cher –

    “Hey Toots, git me a beer!”

  • http://www.foliage.com/~marks Mark Saleski

    nuts! now i’ve got 3 allman’s cds on my list.

    this one, live at the atlanta pop fest and ‘an evening with’ (which has a very cool acoustic version of Elizabeth Reed)

    thanks tom (i think)

  • Eric Olsen

    Thanks Tom, what is most interesting about the Allmans now is that they have succeeded with a virtually all-new THIRD version of the band. who else has done that?

  • http://www.unproductivity.com Tom Johnson

    um, how could you get through a piece on the Allmans without mentioning the greatest working guitarist in all of rock and roll, Warren Haynes.

    Well, Lono, for starters, I mentioned specifically in the first line of the review what my draws to the band on this release is – Derek Trucks and Oteil Burbridge. And second, there’s a long list of “greatest working guitarist(s) in all of rock and roll,” and while Warren Haynes may be great, I just don’t rank him higher than any others. And especially since I specifically mention Trucks multiple times, I think it’s pretty obvious where I place him in the pantheon of great guitar players at the moment, at least in relation to Haynes. That is no slight to Haynes – he’s a great player, I enjoy Gov’t Mule because of him – but the grabber here is the amazing Trucks.

    Mark – you’ve got the same Allmans on your list that I do, along with the recent Fillmore Deluxe Edition. Why is it that I’m only into these $25-30 sets, especially when I shouldn’t be affording them?!

  • http://www.foliage.com/~marks Mark Saleski

    ….and the really stupid thing is that i’ll be at the store, take a look at a more expensive set, put it back (“ohhh..too much money…”) and then end up buying three other single cds.

  • Chris Kent

    I own Atlanta Pop Fest CD and it’s just fucking excellent. Highly recommended…..

  • http://www.foliage.com/~marks Mark Saleski

    ok, i went out at lunch and bought One Way Out.

    based on just a couple of minutes of Statesboro Blues, it’s obvious that this is one fine and smokin’ band.

    fantastic.

  • http://www.unproductivity.com Tom Johnson

    ….and the really stupid thing is that i’ll be at the store, take a look at a more expensive set, put it back (“ohhh..too much money…”) and then end up buying three other single cds.

    I do the same thing. It seems like a better deal – three new albums by up to three bands. But it almost always turns out that I would have been happier had I just bought exactly what I wanted and ignored the other stuff.

    And dammit, Atlanta Pop is sittin’ right on top of my mental list of what-to-buy-next right now . . . but the $25 price is sitting at the top of my this-is-too-expensive-for-only-two-discs list. Just like One Way Out – I put that purchase off for over a month after it came out because of that thinking. And I’ve listened to it more than most of the other stuff I bought in that time. Go figure.