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A Modern Day Appreciation of the Allman Brothers Band

Doug Collette By

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Any music lover who's come to relish the Allman Brothers Band, particularly in the last ten to fifteen years, must be feeling more than a little melancholy as 2015 evolves. And if following the iconic Southern rock band has become a cyclical rite of passage all its own, that poignant sensation is probably not going to wane as the seasons come and go: in years (not so recently) past, before the glow of a new year by the calendar had come and gone, the announcement of the Beacon Theatre shows arrived and, notwithstanding the relative pain of getting the tickets to to those appearances, the weight of winter lightened in anticipation of the run at the Broadway venue, a March madness all its own, particularly if the weather turns spring-like ( and when didn't it?).

The summer tour of the sheds didn't seem that far off either when those unique two/three weeks were over and in recent years the Peach-head community had the Wanee Festival in April to tide it over til then plus the Peach Festival in August to soften the blow of progressively fewer July/August dates since 2010. And while it's true the band generally turned to the warhorses almost exclusively in front of larger crowds, the music could still resonate in both balmy atmosphere or inclement weather: 2006 in Mansfield, Massachusetts was dubbed by one wag as "The Beacon's Greatest Hits."

Autumn, of course, had always carried its own psychic and emotional burden for the devotee of the Allmans due to the death of its founder, Duane "Skydog" Allman, in October of 1971 and now, with the group seemingly calling it quits as of October 28,2014-with the marathon show actually lasting til the wee hours on the anniversary of the late leader's passing-fall has even more meaning. Yet, the most stirring moments of the Allman Brothers Band's recording at the Beacon on October 28, 2014, didn't occur til near the end of the near four hour performance.

Which, in its own way, was the logical extension of ABB's progression (or lack thereof) as guitarists Derek Trucks and Warren Haynes finalized the announcement of their departure from the group as released in January of 2015. When the latter rejoined the group in 2001, after a turn concentrating on Gov't Mule and a stint with Phil Lesh and Friends, he solidified a bond with Trucks the two had established over the years with numerous sit-ins so that, by 2003's Beacon run, their complementary styles, plus the seamlessness nuance with which they meshed in virtual telepathy, rivaled that of their forebears in the band Duane Allman and Dickey Betts.

Not surprisingly, this also led to a period of inspired innovation for the group at large, where monumental segues such as the 2004 transition from "High Cost of Low Living" (from the first ABB studio album in twelve years, Hittin' the Note (Peach/Sanctuary 2003) into the "Mountain Jam" that started the set (immortalized in the forward to Randy Poe's biography of the late found of ABB, Skydog (Backbeat, 2006), were as representative of the band's inclination to stretch out in improvisational terms as well as judiciously reach outside the standard Allmans repertoire.

Around this time, the frequency of setlist inclusions from Derek & The Dominos' Layla & Other Assorted Love Songs (Polydor, 1970)( to which Eric Clapton masterpiece Skydog had contributed so mightily) was only the most overt means to parlay cover material related to their history: Duane Allman played on Aretha Franklin's version of The Band's "The Weight" as well as Johnny Jenkins' rendition of Dr. John's "Walk On Golden Splinters." And it's hard to miss the meaning, both personal and provincial, within The Band's "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down."

Still, by 2006 those peak experiences were fewer and farther between even as The Brothers continued their annual March runs at the Beacon, conducted summer tours with regularity and made valiant (and mostly successful) attempts to avoid predictability, as with the 2011 fall tour of theaters including Boston's Orpheum (where the group flashed more fire than in New York that year). The Allman Brothers Band were never less than professionally excellent as they decade turned, but as their two vaunted guitarists gave more and more attention to their own projects—Haynes going solo in addition to Mule and The Derek Trucks Band giving way to Derek's alliance with Susan Tedeschi first in the Soul Stew Revival, then the current Tedeschi Trucks Band alliance-their engagement with ABB had to wane.


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