By: Ryan Alan
When publicists for the Allman Brothers Band suggest the storied group still plays like they have something to prove, it is not intended as mere press bio flourish.
That’s because it is the truth, said Warren Haynes, a veteran member of the beloved Rock and Roll Hall of Fame band, as well as one of the most acclaimed guitarists in contemporary music.
“That’s part of our mission every night,” he assured. “We walk on stage with something to prove.”
The ABB would not have it any other way, he emphasized. It is a musical contingent, after all, that he believes is considered an “American institution.”
“What makes it special for us is the sound is as valid night after night,” Haynes said. The group’s music is based around improvisation and the collective interplay that happens within the band, he explained. “It’s really important to us that the interplay is at the top of its game so to speak. We never want to reach a point where we just walk out and play the songs. It’s always got to be a challenge. That’s absolutely what keeps it fresh and interesting.”
“I was such a fan of the group growing up. Some of the things that struck me then strike me today. They were blending musical elements together that had never been blended that way. It’s an unmistakably unique sound. They created their own genre.”
Not too many bands can say that, he agreed. It is a sound that married rock, blues, country and jazz in such tunes as “Revival,” “Dreams,” “Midnight Rider,” “Melissa” and “In Memory of Elizabeth Reed.”
As Willie Nelson put it in inducting the Allmans into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame: “The Allman Brothers Band took what moved them and merged it into something unique that audiences love: a sound that redefined the direction of rock’n’roll and opened the doors to a spirit of experimentation that continues in today’s music.”
They were and still are one of the most exciting live bands ever to hit the stage, Nelson added. He said they reflect so many of his own sentiments about music: “Originality, a determination not to be confined musically, or stylistically, but instead to forge your own way and make music that moves you, a devotion to the road and understanding that beyond pleasing yourself as an artist, the only consideration should be the people.”
Haynes said he was quite moved by those words, and honored that it was Nelson expressing them. Haynes assured that the members are well aware that this isn’t just any band in which they are playing. There is a real pride in being able to say they are a member of the Allman Brothers.
“Every one of us is proud of the music we are making and the history of what the band has accomplished,” he said.
Those who have not seen the current line-up need to experience it first hand, he suggested, to really understand what it is he is talking about that makes it so special. “We are all really happy with this line-up. It’s a really, really great band and a pleasure to walk on stage with every one every night,” Haynes said.
In addition to Haynes on vocals, lead and slide guitar, there is co-founder Gregg Allman, keyboards and vocals; Butch Trucks, drums and tympani; Jaimoe (he only uses one name), drums; Derek Trucks, slide and lead guitar; Oteil Burbridge, bass, and Marc Quinones, congas and percussion.
There is a combination of elements in the band that are great on their own, but when combined tend to add to more than the sum of the parts, Haynes said.
“It’s hard to describe. It’s an overwhelming feeling when the band walks on stage that this is the Allman Brothers. Even though it has gone through a lot of personnel changes, there is no mistaking the music you are hearing is the Allman Brothers Band.”
He agrees that it is not about the age of the musicians, but the musical sensibility each brings to the table. “The feeling you get from music is like no other feeling, whether you are playing or listening or writing it. It’s very special, almost magical,” he says. “Music is one of the most healing gifts we are given.”
The music the Allmans play requires passion to perform, he said. “That is really the key to the whole thing: walking on stage with the passion it takes to perform this kind of music and having this kind of line up that is inspiring to do that,” Haynes said. “Of course the audience inspires you night after night.”
That audience seems to be getting younger every year, he added. “Young kids are discovering this music every day and we meet kids every night at the show that are just getting turned on to this music,” Haynes said. “They see this is the real deal. A lot of kids are looking backward and realizing the music that represents their generation maybe is not quite as valid and they feel ripped off and look back for the real thing.”
They find it in the Allman Brothers Band.