I lead off today’s column with a review of the late Gregg Allman’s final studio album followed by reviews of the 20th Anniversary, multi-artist collection from Basin Street Records and a short Johnny Cash tribute EP.
‘Southern Blood,’ Gregg Allman (Rounder Records,☆☆☆☆1/2)
This release is the final album from the late Gregg Allman, and it presents a set of songs that often deal with saying good-bye, dying and other final topics. Gregg sings, plays Hammond B3 and rhythm guitar along with an excellent studio band directed by guitarist Scott Sharrard, who co-wrote the opening tune with Gregg and wrote another one. The backing singers are the excellent McCrary Sisters.
That opener, “My Only True Friend,” is one of my favorite songs; but in terms of “goosebumps-causing,” the winner is Gregg’s version of Lowell George’s “Willin’.”
Gregg’s vocal turns the drug-smuggling song into a heart-wrenching road anthem. Other favorites include the pedal-steel-drenched “Going Going Gone” (Jerry Garcia/Robert Hunter).
A nice booklet with recent studio photographs plus notes from two Allman children is a bonus addition to a recording that all fans of Gregg or the Allman Brothers band will cherish.
‘A Beautiful World,’ Kermit Ruffins/Irvin Mayfield (Basin Street Records, ☆☆☆☆☆)
This recent release is in honor of Basin Street Records’ 20th Anniversary, and features contributions from many of their artists, not just trumpeter/vocalist Ruffins and trumpeter/producer Mayfield.
My favorite songs on the connected recording include Kermit singing “Good Morning New Orleans,” a cool new version of “Don’t Worry Be Happy” featuring Jason Marsalis, Cyril Neville, Haley Reinhart and Glen David Andrews, a swinging “Just Playin’” with a large cast of characters, a memorable tribute called “Allen Toussaint,” Rebirth Brass Band’s “Do Whatcha Wanna Interlude,” the rollicking “Footwork,” a second-line version of “Li’l Liza Jane” and a heartfelt “Just a Closer Walk With Thee” coupled with a short run through “When the Saints Go Marching In.”
Your favorites probably won’t be there same as mine, but admirers of NOLA music will dig this disc.
‘Five Minutes To Live: A Tribute To Johnny Cash,’ Jocephus & The George Jonestown Massacre (Saustex Records,☆☆☆☆)
This Oct. 20 CD/45-RPM release comes from the same backing band that played on last year’s great Black Oak Arkansas tribute, “Mutants of the Monster,” plus Cash’s drummer W.S. Holland and other stars.
“The Losing Kind” features vocals by J.D. Pinkus (Honky), Mick Harvey croons the equally obscure title song, Jocephus sings “The Sound of Laughter” and Buzz Osborn (Melvins) sings a creepy-sounding cover of “The Long Black Veil.”
Holland’s solid drumming anchors them all, and ties the tribute together.
Ricky Flake, a former punk rocker and current music fan, lives in Biloxi. Reach him at email@example.com.