A farewell to and a meditation on his mortality, Gregg Allman’s Southern Blood – a collection of covers and a single evocative original – was recorded at the legendary Muscle Shoals FAME studio after the diagnosis of cancer that would take his life a few short months later.
And while the record hits all the hallmarks of the Allman sound – the spacious, soaring guitar solos, the everyman approach to subject matter and the whiskey-weary voice – it is the conscious finality, the retrospective knowledge that these songs are the final message from a performer facing his final act, that makes this record really resonate.
Whether the little-heard Dylan dirge “Going Going Gone” or the Grateful Dead’s “Black Muddy River,” the collection orbits around simple themes – choosing the life led, staying true to oneself and, ultimately, learning to say goodbye.
It is the album’s final track – a relatively sparse and clearly emotional reading of Jackson Browne’s “Song for Adam” – that provides the most affecting moments on Southern Blood. A song often associated with Allman’s late brother Duane, who died in a motorcycle accident just as the Allman Brothers Band was reaching a creative pinnacle, it becomes not only a lament over the loss of loved ones but also as a reminder to fans.
Artists come and, quite sadly, go. The art they leave behind is eternal.