Gregg Allman brings new band to Aspen
The Aspen Times
If You Go …
Who: Gregg Allman
Where: Belly Up Aspen
When: Tuesday, June 23 and Wednesday, June 24, 9:30 p.m.
Tickets: Belly Up box office; http://www.bellyupaspen.com
When Gregg Allman has a new band, and he says they can sound better than the Allman Brothers on “At Fillmore East,” it’s time to listen up.
The rock and blues legend, 67, played what he’s calling the Allman Brothers’ last show in 2014 at the Beacon Theatre in New York. This summer, he’s on the road with a new eight-piece lineup behind him, made up mostly of musicians who grew up playing songs he wrote and who he ranks alongside prime Allman Brothers.
“It’s one of the best lineups I’ve ever put together,” Allman said recently in an email interview.
The lineup includes Allman on Hammond organ and guitar, former Allman Brothers percussionist Marc Quinones and longtime Allman collaborators Scott Sharrard on guitar and Jay Collins on saxophone, leading a horn trio.
“It’s a smokin’ bunch, boy, no doubt about that,” Allman said.
On the current tour, which comes to Belly Up Aspen for a two-night run this week, Allman is mixing in a handful of songs from his most recent solo record, 2011’s “Low Country Blues,” in set lists that include covers from blues forebears such as Blind Willie McTell and Muddy Waters along with Allman Brothers songs that have been rearranged to fit his solo band (yes, “Whipping Post,” “Melissa” and “Midnight Rider” usually make nightly appearances).
Allman’s solo career extends back 40 years to the time when his bandmates rejected a song, “Queen of Hearts,” during a studio session. So hitting the road on his own is nothing new, but focusing on it full time, with no plans to reunite the Allman Brothers, is new terrain and has Allman feeling creatively exhilarated.
Along with the Allman Brothers taking a final bow, last year included Allman receiving a musical tribute in an all-star January concert in Atlanta — released as the live album and concert film “All My Friends” — featuring the likes of Jackson Browne, Widespread Panic and Dr. John performing his music.
Allman was particularly surprised that night by the country treatments of his songs by artists such as Eric Church (“Ain’t Wastin’ Time No More”), Trace Atkins (“Trouble No More”), Martina McBride (“All My Friends”) and Zac Brown (“Midnight Rider”).
“I learned that although I don’t write country songs, country artists can sing the hell out of my songs,” Allman said.
Tribute shows and farewell concerts usually indicate a career in twilight, but Allman – still standing after a liver transplant and the rock ’n’ roll lifestyle detailed in his cautionary 2012 memoir “My Cross to Bear” — says he won’t be retiring.
“I’ll never stop playing music,” he said. “It’s my life’s blood. I want to be like John Lee Hooker; they’re gonna have to carry me off that stage.”
Though playing a small club such as Belly Up is a rarity for Allman these days, it is familiar territory because of Allman’s early solo runs, and a welcome change from the larger rooms he customarily performs in these days.
“Back in the ’80s, all I played were these little clubs and bars in the middle of nowhere for no money,” he recalled. “Now, it’s a pleasure to play a small place. It’s great to have the crowd around you, and people can actually hear what you’re playing.”