Allman Brothers Band
Hittin' the Note
First Appeared at The Music Box, May 2003, Volume 10, #5
Written by John Metzger
There’s no question that the loss of Dickey Betts was a big one for the Allman Brothers Band. For decades, his Southern, country twang (Blue Sky) and jazzy instrumentals (In Memory of Elizabeth Reed) poked through Gregg Allman’s driving blues-rock to add a sunny counterpoint that was absolutely brilliant. In recent years, however, Betts’ ability to perform was hampered by his addictions, and thus he was tossed from the group. Not surprisingly, subsequent tours found the Allman Brothers Band becoming a tad one-dimensional as each hardcore blues tune blurred into the next with minimal diversity.
Nevertheless, the Allman Brothers Band has persevered and with the release of its new album Hittin’ the Note, the group has found a way to return to greatness. True, the departure of Betts is still felt throughout the album. More often than not, however, the ensemble rips into its new batch of songs with such intense force that all but the most diehard Betts fans won’t care one bit.
Indeed, Hittin’ the Note carries the hard-hitting thunder of early Allman Brothers Band classics such as its self-titled debut and Idlewild South. Mixing blues and jazz with the band’s trademark style, the music is explored from every possible avenue, often with intriguing results. On the High Cost of Low Living, the band wraps its arms around a funky groove as the guitars of Warren Haynes and Derek Trucks lap at its edges while the bass of Oteil Burbridge surfs waves of percussion. Midway through, the song slips into something different, blossoming into the sort of soaring guitar beauty for which the band is known. Likewise, the soulful Desdemona mutates from the slow-burn sound of a smoky roadhouse bar band into a blissful blast of breezy jazz and back again without skipping a beat; Instrumental Illness carries the jazz theme to epic proportions as the band’s masterful interplay simmers with uncompromising vibrancy; and Rocking Horse crashes through a Neville Brothers-inspired beat with brute force. On much of the rest of the album, the band offers somewhat more concise musical statements — at least in Allman Brothers Band terms — delivering acoustic tranquility on the gracefully reflective Old Before My Time and powerhouse rock on the opening boogie Firing Line. In other words, the Allman Brothers Band has proven its resiliency once again, and although it’s hard to compete with the band’s many long-heralded classics, Hittin’ the Note comes awfully close. ˝
Of Further Interest...
Hittin' the Note is available from Barnes & Noble.
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2003 The Music Box