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Gregg Allman is back in the race

  • JOE PLASKO/TIMES NEWS Gregg Allman sings behind his keyboard for the sellout/sell out audience at Penn's Peak on Saturday night.
    JOE PLASKO/TIMES NEWS Gregg Allman sings behind his keyboard for the sellout/sell out audience at Penn's Peak on Saturday night.
Published January 24. 2011 05:00PM

During his rendition of the Allman Brothers Band classic "Dreams I'll Never See," Gregg Allman sang a verse about "putting on a new face" so he can "get on back in the race."

These days, that fits Allman, who is a new man and back on the road after undergoing a successful liver transplant last June.

The Rock and Roll Hall of Famer made his fourth solo appearance at Penn's Peak in Jim Thorpe on Saturday night, in a concert that was rescheduled from Dec. 28 due to a winter storm.

The show went from being the opening date for this tour to the final date, giving the sellout crowd at The Peak the benefit of seeing Allman and his band after they had road tested the songs, including those from "Low Country Blues," his first new studio album in 14 years.

From the moment Allman and his band took the stage with "Don't Keep Me Wonderin'," the enthusiastic audience was encouraging him, cheering and even yelling out requests.

That the 63 year-old Allman, looking thin and with his long hair tied back, is able to tour and produce his trademark bluesy, soul tinged vocals is remarkable in itself, given that he is recovering from major surgery.

Allman's singing was able to inject the right amounts of world-weariness into his cover of Bob Dylan's "Just Like a Woman" and his signature ballad "Melissa" as well as maintaining the outlaw defiance of his solo hit "I'm No Angel."

Allman sat behind his Hammond B-3 organ for most of the almost two-hour performance, stepping out to play guitar on occasion. He was pretty much all business, keeping his between song banter to introducing the next number in his usual laid-back manner.

At one point, he did enthusiastically mention that "the night is still young," a harbinger of good things to come.

The T Bone Burnett-produced "Low Country Blues" features Allman's versions of songs by blues giants. In concert he mixed several songs from the record with his solo work and revamped ABB standards.

Two of those songs from the new album, "Just Another Rider" and "Floating Bridge," were part of the setlist from Allman's last Peak appearance in December, 2009.

Allman's solo band, which was also the same from his last Peak show, brings a bit more rhythm and blues to the table than the jam-oriented ABB and Gregg was once again generous in allowing the unit plenty of room to shine.

Longtime friend and percussionist Floyd Miles, who Gregg noted has played with him for 42 years, was given lead vocals on three numbers, including a rough and tumble "Born Under a Bad Sign", "You Must Be Crazy" and an energetic R&B romp through "Back to Daytona."

Horn player Jay Collins was particularly busy, providing flute solos on "Melissa" and "Rolling Stone," the latter from the new Allman disc, and sax on ABB standouts "Dreams" and "Whipping Post," demonstrating Gregg's willingness to tinker with the familiar arrangements.

Guitarist Scott Sharrard was also sharp, adding slide work to Muddy Waters' "I Can't Be Satisfied" and the soaring notes that embellish "Melissa."

Bruce Katz backed Gregg on keyboards, getting to strut his stuff on a piano solo during "Dreams," and the rhythm section of bassist Jerry Jemmott and drummer Steve Potts provided the punch to keep the songs flowing.

Gregg encroached on ABB sonic territory on two solo numbers in which ABB/Gov't Mule guitarist Warren Haynes had a hand in writing, "Just Another Rider" and "Just Before the Bullets Fly."

The set also included a soulful ride through "Blind Man," a Bobby "Blue" Bland number from the new album.

A high point was the two-song encore, which kicked off with "Floating Bridge," an ominous Sleepy John Estes tune about a man saved from drowning that is sung by Allman on an acoustic guitar on the new album. Gregg opened the song that way before the full-band jumped in to turn things up a notch.

The show closed with another ABB warhorse, "Statesboro Blues," which was given a funky treatment.

The next time Gregg Allman takes to the stage, it will be with ABB during one of its lengthy runs at the Beacon Theater in New York City in March.

With a new album under his belt and a new lease on life, Gregg is definitely "back in the race."

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