The Freelance Mentalists.
Wednesday, September 21, 2005
  Then There Is (Butt Moe Is Less)

Well now, Mom, Dad, some of you kiddies too, y'all know how a Stone
Mountain-high billboard promoting the Allman Brothers Band's upcoming Hooterville
show should read: "RETURN of the vanguard '70s Southern Rock, polyrhythmic,
solar-systemic, all-tyme blues-tattooed-jazz-jam stars, eating peaches, 'shrooms
and doom for breakfast and lunch too! Death-dogged dawgs, still
death-defying, yet sometimes own-breath-they-frying Kings Of the Road for 35 years!"
But ne'mind, Clementine: rat now, in Indian Summer '05, I yam floating
through an '03 visitation of "Mountain Jam," which peacefully and peachfully
loops me back through pre-Legendary days in Tuscaloosa, where I sat on a
dusty-carpeted, hardwood floor with some of these guys, friends of a friend. We
pointed at and jabbered about information found on the back of album covers. They
were really into Mongo Santamaria, who made what was still called Afro-Cuban
music. He employed (as players, and sometimes also as arrangers and composers)
up-and-coming progressos like Chick Corea. (Results tended to be more fun than,
say, listening past Herbie Mann's flutings, with an ear stretching toward
Larry Coryell and/or Sonny Sharrock, buzzing down in the mix, but I think we did
some of that too.) John Coltrane had covered Mongo's "Afro Blue," which led
ABBabies from one kind of jazz to another. (Or vice versa. Really was a while
In late 1970 or early '71, they came back to play, in the auditorium of
Morgan Hall, home of the University of Alabama's English Department. It was a
setting in gray, quaint contrast to the lurid musical Godzillathon onstage. In
early 1972, when, for various reasons (like Vietnam), the world seemed as gray
and mottled as the pavement that had just claimed Duane, the surviving ABB
returned to Tuscaloosa, unveiling the elegiac "Les Brers In A Minor," which was
as bold and eloquent as any other moment spent with (all) such spirits.
1973: Once again in T-town, when the Crimson Tide was at its peak (and the
war was going from mainly ground to primarily air, and backroom), the
Brother hoodz seemed most appropriately viewed through the white line fever-visions
of "Ramblin' Man." Of a late night appearance at Charlotte's mad '74
(Watergate Summer) Speedway mudfest, The International Carolina Jam, I wrote,
" Their sound's the air and everything in it." And, "I look straight up.
The night sky winks." (Like sorry, but it's true.)
Meanwhile, back in '03, the "Jam" is still revolving/ evolving, and,
while listening to the disc of it in '05, I taste traces of jazzy goodies from
the crispy late 60s/early 70s cusp: Mongo's version of "Watermelon Man," Wes
Montgomery's "Bumpin' On Sunset," perhaps War's "Low Rider," surely the sleight
return of Jimi's "Third Stone From The Sun," near the end, but not before
Gregg's Hammond B-3 almost gives it up for "Boogaloo Down Broadway," by The
Fantastic Johnny C!
Gregg also plays the piano part on "Layla" like he's marching punks into
Reform School assembly, but it works, and the guitars re-ignite right on cue.
As in recent decades, he sings like Gran'paw 'Metheus in chains, but must have
been taking his Geritol, because he puts across every word, and even the
tribal "Ahh-ahh, ahh-aah-aah, ahh-ahh, aah-aah" 's on "Black Hearted Woman."
Nevertheless, Warren Haynes' singing is a welcome change, especially on
his deep blue "Patchwork Quilt," where "tears of sorrow, tears of rage" are, I
think, for the late great Allen Woody, the bassist who, along with guitarist
Haynes, is given deserved credit for reviving the Allman Brothers Band. (Even if
they did eventually have to make their Gov't Mule side-project a full-time
job, but that worked out for the best.) Now Warren's back (replacing ditched
Dickey), with the ever-budding prodigy, Derek Trucks. (Who, on this '03 set,
shapes the fluidity of his main themes with a scraping punctuation.) This is a
team that Robert Christgau, Dean of American Rock Critics, and ABB nut from the
get-go, even prefers to Duane and Dickey! I think that, in this context(in '03, anyway, when playing *together* in ABB was still new to them),
obliged to perform much (though certainly not all) the same material that D.& D.
defined, Warren and Derek don't project as much of their own musical
personality as the Dawgfathers did. (Though the Dereks Trucks Band and Gov't Mule
are something else again.)
But the ABB's cliches are theirs, while Moe's three-disc live set, Warts
And All, Volume 4 is a vigorously excruciating demonstration of every generic
jam band cliché, evah. Hoedowns, a touch of reggae, almost-Bo-Diddley beats;
nerdy, sub-Dylan-y complaints; sub-Robert Hunter philosophizin'; sub-"Dark Star"
guitar detours, no-o-o! Still, I do like "Happy Hour Heros," about wryly
rolling your eyes, and getting through a tiresome performance.(PS: 1) This is one of those Instant Live sets, sold Instantly at gig they've just documented, then, if there ever was any excessive crowd noise, as I've occasionally read about other sets, it's been tweaked from this nice-priced Charlotte 03 joint, at least, before it reappeared on ABB-authorized; 2)the only time on here when Allman cliches become a problem: when a reflexive slide YEEHHAAWS in midst of "Good Morning Little School Girl" 's sneaky grooves; 3) the proto-ABBabies were also into some country, as would later become more apparent when "Ramblin' Man" actually got played on 70s country radio, the first such crossover I can recall. But even early "Statesboro Blues" suggests early country. (Never heard the original, which might also, perhaps something like MS. Sheiks' delta-blues-to-honky-tonk crossover experiments?)I'm thinking of the vaudeville-ish country on some sides Jimmie Rodgers and Emmett Miller cut with accompaniment by say, Louis Armstrong, and the Dorsey Brothers, I think. Also come to think of it, Dickey did "Blue Yodel #3," wasn't it, with New Orleans horns, on Tribute To Jimmie Rodgers. (And epic glide "Kissimee Kid," with Vassar Clements, The King Of Hillbilly Jazz, it says here [RIP, again], on Dickey scuse me *Richard Betts'* great solo debut, Highway Call.) While in ABB,of course he would often raise a big dipper of blue slide-emulating-country-steel-emulating-Hawaii(hawaya)(Haveya seen that TV commercial, in which "Melissa" winds and calls all round the winding look the actress gives the actor when he finally shows--talk about your country.)

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