When Gregg Allman went into the studio to record his final album Southern Blood it was clear to all those around him that he was saying goodbye. The record, released posthumously last September, contains a number of tracks that tell the story of a man looking back on his life. In 2017, we wrote about his version of the Grateful Dead’s “Black Muddy River” and how it provided a feeling of joyful release. By contrast, the album’s closing tune, a cover of Jackson Browne’s “Song for Adam,” relates a much bleaker story.
The histories of the Grateful Dead and the Allman Brothers Band have long been intertwined. The two bands shared the stage numerous times in the 1970s. They covered some of the same songs over the years. Heck, they even shared members, with singer/guitarist Warren Haynes and bassist Oteil Burbridge both playing with the Allmans and various latter-day Dead spinoffs.
Gregg Allman adds a new chapter to this legacy with his cover of the Dead’s “Black Muddy River” on his posthumous studio album Southern Blood. Written by Jerry Garcia and Robert Hunter, the history of “Black Muddy River” runs deep through Deadhead lore. The tune is a dark elegy, filled with longing for times past, but with maybe a bit of hope in the end. In Blair Jackson’s 1995 biography Garcia: An American Life, Hunter said that the song “is about the perspective of age and making a decision about the necessity of living in spite of a rough time and the ravages of anything else that’s going to come at you.”
Five Good Covers presents five cross-genre reinterpretations of an oft-covered song.
“These Days” was written by an old soul of sixteen, Jackson Browne, several years before he released an album of his own. The melancholy ballad was originally released on the 1967 album Chelsea Girl (a reference to Andy Warhol’s 1966 film Chelsea Girls) by the singer-songwriter, lyricist, composer, musician, fashion model, actress, and ’60s counterculture queen, Nico. It may have been Browne’s song, but Nico was the first to put a stamp on it, and her stamp was an indelible one.
January 2011 looks to be a big month for cover albums, with big-name artists dropping new ones left and right. Perhaps everyone was waiting for the Christmas season to be over. Last month, non-holiday covers were a rare breed indeed. After umpteen “The First Noel” and “Last Christmas” covers though, some blues and rockabilly tunes prove as refreshing as a rum and coca cola.