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Compared to the work he does with the Allman Brothers Band, Gregg Allman's solo efforts are best summed up by the title of his debut album, Laid Back (1973). Simplicity, like Laid Back, I'm No Angel (1986) and his other records, offers basic R&B with soulful choruses, rather than blues jams. The new album even features an "unplugged" remake of "Whipping Post," which Allman says was done on a dare. (Unfortunately it doesn't match Eric Clapton's remake of "Layla"; the original "Whipping Post" has nothing to fear.) Allman's current supporting band includes the Alameda All Stars: Mark McGee (guitar), Tom Miller (bass, vocals), Tommy Thompson (piano, synthesizer, vocals), and Preston Thrall (drums). Also in the band are .38 Special's Danny Chauncey (guitar), Jimmy Hall (sax, harp, vocals), and Floyd Miles, a childhood friend of Allman who, he says, "pretty much taught me about black music" on percussion and vocals.
In concert the band plays a mix of Allman Brothers gems, Allman solo hits and various R&B originals and covers. Searching For Simplicity is an autobiographical title, both professionally and personally, Allman says. "In the music there were very few overdubs; we plugged in and played, just like my first solo album. And my life has gotten a lot simpler. I've sobered up and all that."
Now, Allman has time to better appreciate his fiancee and his 18-year-old daughter (both of whom he lives with), his dogs, his guitars, and his Harley-Davidsons. "I'm not scared, and I don't have all those phobias and all the stuff that goes with [drinking]," he says, "and I don't spend half my time seeing if I can get myself blotto but still be able to function. And so I have more time to have fun. Plus, I've noticed all this extra money I've got."
He also has more time to appreciate the music he makes. It's been a long road, yet Allman, unlike many aging pop and rock stars, has never swerved from his musical roots -- the blues and soul of his predecessors, who include Elmore James, Robert Johnson, T-Bone Walker, and Willie Dixon. The simple things, indeed.
Gregg Allman & Friends will perform Wednesday, December 30, at the Pompano Beach Amphitheatre, 1801 NE Sixth St., Pompano Beach, starting at 8 p.m. Ticket prices range from $21 to $25. For more information call 954-946-2402.