For his first album in more than thirteen years, Gregg Allman tapped producer T-Bone Burnett, whose roots-music portfolio begins with production credits for the O Brother, Where Art Thou? soundtrack, which earned him an Oscar. He did the same for Crazy Heart last year. On Low Country Blues, Burnett used a strategy he’d applied to other collaborations — one with Cassandra Wilson, the other with Robert Plant and Allison Kraus — cherry-picking material from a group of older blues and traditional songs. The eleven covers he chose all fall within Allman’s stylistic wheelhouse, and all are given a gritty, rock-solid working over with standout accompaniment from a crew of sidemen that includes Mac Rebennac, Doyle Bramhall II, and Burnett himself.
Among the highlights are a snappy reading of Little Walter‘s “Little by Little” goosed along by the interplay of Allman’s Hammond B-3 and Rebennac’s piano, a brass-infused version of Bobby “Blue” Bland‘s “Blind Man,” and a down-in-the-dumps reading of Otis Rush‘s “Checking On My Baby” that aches with the pain of someone intimately familiar with heartbreak. “Just Another Rider,” the sole original song, was penned with longtime friend and band member Warren Haynes. It fits in perfectly alongside equally vibrant covers of B.B. King and Amos Milburn, thanks to a vintage vibe redolent with rich horn arrangements. Having come off a bout with Hepatitis C and a subsequent liver transplant, Allman sings with a survivalist’s determination that makes lines like I’m going back to my father/Fall down on my knees/Gotta do better than I did/Recognize me if you please in the traditional number “I Believe I’ll Go Back Home” ring with a truthfulness. (Rounder)