In a scene played out similarly some 150 times in the last 13 years, people of varying ages and walks of life buzz around under the brightly scripted marquee in anticipation of a communal rock ‘n’ roll happening. As I write this, The Allman Brothers Band are on stage two and a half hours south, wrapping up the final night of their latest two-week-long engagement at the Beacon Theatre. The esteemed group—celebrating the big 35 this year—certainly loves the place just as much as their fans, many of whom make the pilgrimage to New York City’s upper west side year after year and stay for several, if not all of the shows. The Allmans are one of the few bands of any era who enjoy that devotion.
Original fans from the 1970’s still show up—and some now bring their kids along for the ride, both generations attracted to the purity and the power of the music. Sure, the sound’s transformed over the ages, but that’s been strictly a function of the liaison among the particular players involved rather than any yielding to trends. The current incarnation of The Allman Brothers Band is true to its original roots, barreling through a no-frills, jam-packed, guitar-solo-fired hybrid of snarled blues and rock ‘n’ roll.
Released to coincide with this latest ’04 Beacon run, One Way Out is a double-disc dose of what went down last year inside that beautiful, landmark theatre. Enthusiastic takes on the kind of blues that first inspired young brothers Duane and Gregg Allman in the late ‘60’s are present in “Statesboro Blues,” “Trouble No More,” “Good Morning Little Schoolgirl,” and “Woman Across the River.” “Statesboro…,” and to a lesser degree “Trouble No More,” really have become Allman Brothers Band songs through eminent domain. “…Schoolgirl” and “Woman Across the River” are fairly new to the Allman repertoire, the inventive arrangements brought to the table by guitarists Derek Trucks and Warren Haynes, respectively. The former two numbers bite down as hard as ever—Trucks fleshes out “Trouble No More” with incandescent and pure Duane Allman-styled licks. The latter two fit in like the proverbial glove, stretched out and striking.
Gregg Allman-penned staples like “Midnight Rider,” “Come & Go Blues,” “Dreams,” and “Whipping Post” are all fantastic, offering plenty of new turns while preserving in total the timelessness of the originals. Allman is still blessed with a voice that finds every perfect, growling blue nuance. “Ain’t Wastin’ Time No More” and “Wasted Words” are particularly impressive to these ears, as they both take off like never before, the telepathic guitar interplay between Haynes and Trucks providing the wings. “Dreams” gives everyone in the band a chance to parade their wares; bassist Oteil Burbridge and the trio of percussionists lay out a fluid bed of funk and jazz. “Old Before My Time” and “High Cost Of Low Living,” Allman’s two unflinchingly candid recitations of a life previously, seriously abused, ring out a little more loosely but just as true as they did on last year’s studio comeback, Hittin’ The Note.
The Allman Brothers Band made enormous strides in the three years since Warren Haynes came back to the fold, joining his friend Derek Trucks in establishing a new standard in the classic dual-guitar frontline, and essentially, becoming band’s guiding light. These seven gifted players together make it seem as though anything at all is possible now. One Way Out is the proof. At the rate these guys infuse this level of talented new blood into their ranks, they ought to be around for another 35 easily. The album’s out on the ABB’s own Peach Records, distributed by the ever-growing Sanctuary Group. Go to www.allmanbrothersband.com for one of the most well-done sites I’ve ever seen. Links to everything you could possibly want abound.