Signature Allman Rock Mixed With a Bit of Soul at Rams Head

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

"It's cozy in here," said Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Gregg Allman at the 308-seat Rams Head Tavern in Annapolis on Monday night, before mumbling something about having flashbacks to his early club-playing days.

Getting a chance to hear the 61-year-old Southern rock architect in an intimate setting comes at a hefty price -- tickets for the sold-out show went for $125. Yet Allman, in raspy voice and eager to please, held up his end of the bargain, delivering a stirring, almost nonstop series of solo album tracks, Allman Brothers favorites and Hammond B-3 organ-powered versions of Bob Dylan's "Just Like a Woman," Bobby "Blue" Bland's "Turn On Your Love Light" and Chuck Willis's "Feel So Bad."

Touring with a seasoned band featuring a pair of Southern R&B vets -- bassist Jerry Jemmott and drummer Steve Potts -- Allman stepped away from the keyboard long enough to soulfully revive "Melissa" on acoustic guitar, and to play a Stratocaster alongside electric guitarist Scott Sharrard during a squalling version of "Whipping Post." While Sharrard's slide work evoked the Allmans' signature sound, his playing was multifaceted, incorporating subtle volume swells, Memphis-tinged double stops and classic B.B. King licks. The tunes were additionally colored by reedman Jay Collins, on baritone, tenor and soprano saxes, keyboardist Bruce Katz and vocalist-percussionist Floyd Miles.

Of course, Allman frequently pulled out all the stops on organ, taking full advantage of the Hammond's quaking resonance. The inevitable encores included a funky, baritone sax-honking rendition of "Statesboro Blues" that sounded as if it had been arranged by Dr. John.

-- Mike Joyce

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