Dickey Betts figures the Allman Brothers transcend generations

ABB 21 (dbaw) - Kirk West


By Steve Newton

Every long-time Allman Brothers fan has a favourite tune by the influential Southern rock band. Some folks tend towards the bluesy slide-guitar riff of “One Way Out”, some go hog-wild when they hear the cascading guitar intro to the band’s biggest hit, “Ramblin’ Man”, and still others prefer the soaring jazziness of the instrumental “Jessica”.

Me, I’m a “Blue Sky” kinda guy: give me Dicky Betts singing that down-home ode to the simple life and I’m a happy boy. So, I was especially tickled to see that “Blue Sky” made it onto the band’s new live album, An Evening with the Allman Brothers. It even made up for “One Way Out” getting cut.

“ ‘One Way Out’ was such a great live performance by Duane Allman on the Eat a Peach album that we just didn’t want to touch that,” Betts explains. “We wanted to stay away from re-recording things that we’d already recorded live.”

Betts says the Allmans didn’t record a live version of “Ramblin’ Man”—the mid-’70s tune that “still pays the rent” for the band—because it’s already been played so many times on the radio. Another thing the band considered when choosing tunes for the live album—most of which Vancouverites will hear during a Southern-fried barbecue bash at the Plaza of Nations on Friday (July 31)—was that they not overlap with songs already on the band’s famous 1971 release, Live at Fillmore East.

So how does Betts rate the new album in comparison to that classic set?

He doesn’t, really.

“I’m the worst person in the world to ask those kind of questions, ’cause it’s real hard for me to be that objective. I mean, the Fillmore had a certain kind of magic, you know, the way the times were and the way people felt about their music. And even though that feeling is coming back, with bands like us and the Grateful Dead and Santana, there was just somethin’ magical about the old Fillmore days.

“So it’s hard to say something is better than that, but I like to think that we’re playing better than that now. Jeez, it’s 20 years later and we’ve been playin’ all this time—we should be better, or we shouldn’t be doin’ it.”

Although they don’t pack the big arenas like they did in their heyday, the Allmans have won new fans with their past two studio albums, Shades of Two Worlds and Seven Turns, both of which included songs nominated for Grammy awards. And the band’s continuing popularity was proven by a string of 10 sold-out shows at New York’s Beacon Theatre, where parts of the new album were recorded.

“There’s a whole new generation comin’ out to see us,” Betts drawls, “and there’s just a very few bands that are doin’ that: maybe the Rolling Stones and, of course, the Grateful Dead. I’m proud to be of that fraternity, to say that we’ve transcended a generation. It’s difficult to do in rock music, especially as trendy as this music tends to be.”

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