For the most part, classic rock and rollers who have spent more than two decades making music don’t make their best albums at the end of their careers. One obvious exception was Warren Zevon, whose final two albums are pure heartbreak and contain some of the best songs he ever wrote. I always have believed that Zevon’s ability to sing about his own death was a brilliant and beautiful way to go. Knowing you’re going to die isn’t necessarily always perceived as a gift. Most of us are terrified of the end, and would rather be blindsided thank you very much. But for an honest artist like Zevon, it was an opportunity to explore the meaning of life and legacy. This gave him newfound relevance that made him an exceptional exception to the rule that old rockers don’t matter.
Ladies and gentlemen, exception #2.
Greg Allman recorded Southern Blood knowing he was dying. But rather than sing about death, he chose to pay tribute to some of his favorite songs between original songs that were more of a reflection on his own life.
“My Only True Friend” and “Love the Life I Lead” are about being a rock star—without regrets. “Willin’” is his take on Littlefeat’s biggest and best song, also about life on the road. And then there’s “Black Muddy River,” a cover of the last song Jerry Garcia sang live before he died. It’s ironic, or perhaps intentional, that fans call the song “Black Cruddy Liver,” as Allman died of liver cancer earlier this year.
This is easily Allman’s best solo album. And it’s proof that bluesy Southern rock still has a strong voice in today’s landscape of vocoders and overproduced pop.