Preview: Gregg Allman, “I Can’t Be Satisfied”
I know no one will believe it, but a couple of weeks ago I heard Muddy Waters‘ 1948 classic recording of his first hit “I Can’t Be Satisfied” for the first time in a while and decided then and there that it needed the One Track Mind treatment. Really, I was going to do it. That is, until I heard Gregg Allman’s cover of it on his upcoming new record, Low Country Blues, slated for release January 18. A collection of a dozen sturdy old blues tunes and one original, this latest T Bone Burnett joint also features covers from Otis Rush, B.B. King, Bobby “Blue” Bland, Sleepy John Estes and others. (Click HERE for the complete SomethingElseReview.com take on Allman’s first solo album in fourteen years.)
For now, though, I’m going to fulfill this promise I made to myself about covering this blues song, with a slight change of plans concerning the bluesman singing it.
“Satisfied” is as well-known to blues lovers as the song it inspired, “Satisfaction,” is to rock lovers. Waters may have had the single recorded in ’48, but he was already performing it under another name when Alan Lomax came around the plantation in Clarksdale, MS in the summer of 1941. The 1948 version had just him on slide guitar and Ernest “Big” Crawford on string bass, but Waters’ huge, cocksure aura announced itself to the world on that career-defining side.
Allman is a large figure in 20th century music himself, who as co-founder of the Allman Brothers Band, forged with Dickey Betts and brother Duane a style of rock that infused elements of country, jazz, RnB and Waters’ blues into what we now call “Southern rock.” Going back to “Whipping Post” on the Allmans’ 1969 debut, Gregg’s ragged, soulful and doleful vocal always decisively made the connection back to the Delta, even when the band wasn’t necessarily play twelve bar blues.
Alllman makes that connection most explicit in taking on one of Muddy’s most hallowed tunes. When he moans “Woman I’m troubled, I be all worried in mind/Well baby I just can’t be satisfied
And I just can’t keep from cryin'” it’s not with the brashness Waters was renowned for. but with the aching resignation that Allman can deliver so well. Using Burnett’s rhythm section of Dennis Crouch (bassist) and drummer Jay Bellerose (drums) and a rolling piano and an old-timey electric slide guitar certainly helps, but you can’t deny the hand of Burnett on this recording: it’s smokey and dusty with a low rumble caused by drums, percussion and bass set back against the reverberation of Allman’s voice. There’s a lot more instrumentation on this contemporary version but since it’s played with a front porch demeanor, it never sounds much cluttered, just rockin’ chair ready.
T Bone doesn’t need to compensate for the artist, since this backwoods blues has been in Gregg’s blood from birth. He simply puts the artist in a natural setting that fits comfortably like old shoes, much as he did for King’s recent back-to-the-hitmaking-days triumph, One Kind Favor (2008).
Allman, looking ever more like Willie Nelson, is still too young to have been playing the songs of Waters when Waters’ signature song was a popular hit. But even as a rock star in his twenties, Allman had the soul of an experienced roots musician from a time a generation or two before his. Burnett understood that innately, and this is what makes cuts from this upcoming album like “I Can’t Be Satisfied” more than a tribute to long deceased bluesmen like Muddy Waters.
It’s a tribute to the essence of Allman himself.
Originally posted at www.SomethingElseReviews.com.