- Desert Morning News ***: "As far as Southern jam bands are concerned, the Allman Brothers Band was one of the pioneers. Hailing from Georgia, the home of another major jam band -- Widespread Panic -- the Allman Brothers Band has seen tragedy and reprieve. Founding father Duane Allman and bassist Berry Oakley died in motorcycle accidents. The band imploded in the late '70s due to artistic differences, and the surviving Allman brother, Gregg, had his bout with alcohol and drugs, as well as being married to Cher and dating the late porn princess Savannah. But you can't keep a great band down. Allman gave himself a good yank on those bootstraps and reformed the band. The group these days includes Allman, original drummer Johnny "Jaimoe" Johnson, original drummer Butch Trucks, returning guitarist Warren Haynes (of Gov't Mule), percussionist Marc Quinones, bassist Oteil Burbridge and slide/lead guitarist Derek Trucks (Butch's nephew).
A new album, "Hittin' the Note," was released a couple of months ago and it finds the band at its best -- jamming. Each track on "Hittin' the Note" lends itself to improvisation. Even the album's single "High Cost of Low Living" clocks in at nearly seven minutes. But that's what Allman Brothers fans expect. They expect guitar duels between Haynes and the younger Trucks. They expect Allman's soulful vocal delivery. They look forward to the rhythm wall that Jaimoe, the elder Trucks and Quinones construct around Allman's keyboards and Burbridge's bass. New songs such as the swirling "Desdemona," the musical trip of "Instrumental Illness" and the semi-acoustic cowboy ballad "Old Before My Time" are destined to become classics in the same vein as prior Allman anthems "Dreams," "Melissa" and "Whipping Post." The band also takes classic blues rockers -- the Rolling Stones' "Heart of Stone" and Freddy King's "Woman Across the River" -- and gives them the Allman Brothers treatment. Capping "Hittin' the Note" is the back-porch jam of "Old Friend," featuring the push and shove of Trucks and Haynes' bottleneck slides. Allman left the album's production up to Haynes and Michael Barbiero. And the two producers found the band members' individual strengths and brought them to the forefront, which, in turn, only solidified the band's sound."
- All-Reviews.Com: "If you think that The Allman Brothers Band would be hurting without Dickey Betts, I have two answers to that situation that most people felt was detrimental to the band, a guitar player named Warren Haynes and a new album called Hittin The Note.
Not only is the music food for though, so is the cover of the album. A small child stands in amazement at a mushroom growing out of barren dry land with a herd of elephants coming straight at him. The boy seems unaffected by what is coming his way because he is so amazed with the mushroom. Can you imagine having that much focus? There is a lot of meaning behind this image and when you open the case and pull the CD out of the tray, there is a picture of several giant mushrooms with a large crowd paying tribute to them (which is obviously a concert crowd with mushrooms superimposed onto the image).
This has to be the best album that this band has recorded in 20 years. It absolutely floored me. I listened to this CD several times while shaking my head wondering where this band has been all these years. When the first few notes of Firing Line strike an iron into the fire and Gregg Allman starts singing, You have been raisin hell since you were a child, you know without a doubt that the Allman Brothers are back in big way. Allman has not lost anything in the vocal department and Warren Haynes plays some of nastiest and meanest slide guitar on the planet, not to mention summoning up some of the most commanding and seasoned vocals in rock music. This is a band igniting their entire set of spark plugs at the same time. They have regained the quintessential spirit that drove them to great heights from 1969-1972.
Instrumental Illness is a remarkable flexing of their musical muscles. Songs like that display the kind of talent that they have at their disposal. Haynes and Allman alone are quite a combination, and then you have Derek Trucks on slide guitar and Butch Trucks behind the drum kit to kick up the energy level another few notches. Desdemona has some tight riffs weaving a colorful quilt of rock-blues and a peppering of jazz, which may surprise some of you long time fans. There is not a song under four minutes on this entire album, it harkens back to their heyday when album oriented rock was at its peak. Even their cover of the Rolling Stones classic Heart of Stone is good, and that usually does not work out very well when a band does a song so far out of character, once again, it proves out their tremendous resilience and talent. Some of the runs during the longer tracks are reminiscent of when Duane Allman was with the band and when Eric Clapton got together with him to make some of the most memorable blues-rock music ever recorded with Derek and the Dominoes. I do not think I could give this album a better compliment than that.
This is Southern Rock at its very best; it does not get any better than this, period. Half the year is gone and I already know that this album will make my top ten of 2003 without a problem. This music will bring a tear to your eye and offer some of the most distinctive bone-chilling guitar you will ever hear. If there is one album that is a must have this year it is this one, get it. " -- Keith "MuzikMan" Hannaleck
- Wall Street Journal: "The one group that's been successfully rejuvenated is the Allman Brothers Band, as demonstrated by their latest effort, "Hittin' the Note" (Sanctuary), which may be their best studio album in almost 30 years. They've jettisoned guitarist Dickie Betts and brought together Warren Haynes and Derek Trucks, two guitarists who sat second chair to the inconsistent Mr. Betts in recent Allman Brothers configurations.
On "Hittin' the Note," the new lineup is incendiary: Both new guitarists are feisty blues players and Mr. Haynes's fat, aggressive sound and Duane Allman-influenced slide are a terrific counterpoint to Mr. Trucks's fluid, occasionally Betts-like filigrees. (Not to suggest that Mr. Trucks can't play in his own style. Next month, he'll release a seven-song CD, "Soul Serenade," that finds him excelling on a variety of rock, jazz and blues tunes.)
A glitzy 12-minute piece, "Instrumental Illness," gives both guitarists a chance to shine, and they close the disc with "Old Friends," a nifty piece of acoustic blues. Meanwhile, Gregg Allman's voice is a road-weary growl and, deployed sparingly now, it sounds terrific, especially on the remake of Mick Jagger and Keith Richards's "Heart of Stone." "Hittin' the Note" is what you want from a band fighting off the ravages of time -- something familiar, something exciting and new, a bit of adventure and a whole lot of fire." -- Jim Fusilli
- Brisbane (Australia) Courier Mail: "Ask Grandpappy", a weekly column.' "Patience is a virtue, rewarded in this case by the Allman Brothers" "I've always enjoyed the Allman Brothers", writes Robert via e-mail." Any truth in the buzz that their new studio album is a return to
form?" Every band of formerly great rockers talks up their new album but in this case it seems that it's been worth talking about. Their fans know of the trials and tribulations of the Allmans, up to and including the departure of founder member Dickey Betts a year or two ago. Now the band have recorded their first studio album in 10 years, their first recording without him since 1969. Betts wasn't the principle songwriter or singer in the band but he did play and sing their biggest hit, Ramblin Man, as well as write one their best known songs, the instrumental In Memory of Elizabeth Reed, and was the mainstay of their two-guitar attack after the death of Duane Allman. What's more, their reputation has been built as a live band--some of their best loved albums are in-concert recordings--and ventures into the studio in the past, oh, 30 years or so, have been workmanlike rather than spectacular. So what were the odds? Surprise, surprise. The new blood has done them good. Their new album "Hittin the Note" was recorded with long-serving members Gregg Allman (pictured), and percussionists Jaimoe and Butch Trucks, supported by guitarists Warren Hayes(sic) and Derek Trucks, percussionist Marc Quinones and bassist Oteil Burbridge. And it burbles along with the spirit of old and all the familiar ingredients in the correct ratio: soulful ballads, thumping blues rock, a lengthy instrumental with jazzy-Latin overtones, and a cover of the Rolling Stones' Heart of Stone as an earthy blues. Best bit: a haunting country blues, Old Before My Time, with Allman's gruff, emotional voice sounding as soulful as it did in 1972. Two thoughts: If those serious Allmans fans the Black Crowes kept making albums this good they would still be in business. And, let's see if the Rolling Stones can sound this excited next time they get back in the studio."
- Pop Matters: "For a long time, I assumed the Allman Brothers Band were lame. I say assumed because I never got past the first few bars of "Ramblin' Man" or "Whipping Post" on the local classic rock radio station without quickly changing the station. This was (read with thick Yankee condescension) "Southern rock", where dirty white boy blues and walrus mustaches ruled. Plus they played that jam band crap. I mean, the Allmans just had to be terrible, right?
Then I went to college, bought my first pair of sandals, smoked my first joint and all of a sudden Live at Fillmore East sounded pretty damn suh-weet. I eventually saw the blatant class discrimination of worshipping at the altar of artsy fartsy guitar bands such as Built to Spill and Television and not paying homage to six-string saints Duane Allman and Dickey Betts, one of the greatest guitar playing duos ever. Not to mention digging all those white British blues bands seemed a bit sacrilegious when I was dissing the preeminent white AMERICAN blues band. Sure Gregg Allman ain't Muddy Waters, but he is a helluva lot closer to the source material than Robert Plant.
But it was Messrs. Jai Johanny Johnson and Butch Trucks, the twin drummers, that really got me hooked. Why are the Allman Brothers Band always referred to as a guitar band when they really are a drum band? The massively killer rhythm parts on any Allman's extended jam is what carries them beyond mere "Grateful Dead of the South" status. The skills Johnson and Trucks bring to the skins not only allow the band to navigate all those tricky blues-to-jazz, jazz-to-blues time changes, but they also make it all sound like rock 'n' roll.
I thought about Jaimoe and Butch whenever I found myself liking the new Allman Brothers' album Hittin' the Note way more than I thought I would. I fully expected to put it in my CD player once and never play it again, but here I am a week later still listening to it. Hittin' the Note is the band's first release since the firing of Betts for "personal problems", a move that rivals Steven Adler's drug-related ouster from Guns N' Roses in the annals of rock hypocrisy considering Allman's long history of chemical abuse. The guitar attack is now carried out by Govt. Mule's Warren Haynes and Derek Trucks, Butch's nephew, both able axmen that have the band' s trademark harmonizing guitar stuff down cold but not the distinctive laidback country style of Betts. The purist in me also balked. The Allman Brothers Band was starting to look like a bunch of guys behind a battle-scarred Gregg . Then I heard the fluid polyrhythmic bed gurgling under the guitar and organ parts and I was suddenly reassured that this was close enough to classic Brothers to make the grade.
It should go without saying that the playing on Hittin' the Note is uniformly excellent. These guys are so good at what they do that they transcend material that is otherwise blues by numbers. "High Cost of Low Living" sums up the album well: it's a typical hard livin' and hard drinkin' cautionary tale with the pitfalls of whiskey drinking and butt kicking described in the most warmed-over manner. ("It's bound to put you six feet in the ground" in case you didn't know.) Other songs such as "Woman across the River" and "Maydell" are pure bar band material, while the slow blues "Desdemona" could be the product of any hack doing a semi-competent Stevie Ray Vaughan impression.
But if the songs are merely workmanlike, the easy roll and tumble of the ensemble playing is still highly enjoyable. The jazzy interludes and long guitar solos that stretch Hittin' the Note to the 75-minute mark would bore me coming from most bands. I don't get into the show-offy snooze-inducing showboating of most jam bands. But there's a real warmth and sense of pleasure poring out of the laser-guided grooves here that comes from long-time mates locking into a groove and seeing where it takes them.
It also helps that Allman still sounds like the best white blues singer around. Like most blues singers, Allman has always tried to sound like an old man when he sings. Now that he's 54 (150 in rock star years), he has the lived-in grace that a comically over-emotive blues belter like Jonny Lang would kill Kenny Wayne Shepherd for. Damn it if the she-done-me-wrong weepie "Desdemona" doesn't hit you right there because Allman sounds so convincing singing it. You know he's been there, man." -- Steven Hyden
- University of New Mexico Daily Lobo: "Imagine a band comprised of seasoned veterans with nothing to lose and young guns too green to care.
That sums up the latest incarnation of The Allman Brothers Band, and they are once again playing music that reaches far beyond the confines of commercial radio - music that is timeless, inspiring and downright necessary in this age of worthless pop-schlock.
Musicians who spend their lives making records tend to follow an arc. When they're young, they push themselves in an effort to make a lasting statement. As their career wanes, the pressure to maintain album sales leads many to take the safe route, writing music that is sterile and exhibits only a shadow of their once formidable talent.
Those who survive being scathed by their own mediocrity search for the passion and conviction that once made them legendary.
On their newest album, Hittin' The Note, the Allman Brothers stalwarts Gregg Allman (keyboards and vocals) and drummers Butch Trucks and Jaimoe are joined by guitarists Warren Haynes and Derek Trucks, percussionist Marc Quinones and six string bass phenom Oteil Burbridge.
All of the new additions are much younger than the surviving members of The Allman Brothers Band, but equally gifted and possessed by the southern blues muse.
The second track "High Cost of Low Living" demonstrates the band's return to adventurous extended jamming. After three-and-a-half minutes of Allman's whiskey soaked vocals recounting the trials of life on the road, the song seems to be fading out with a guitar solo.
At four minutes, it's the perfect length for a radio single. But instead of leaving quietly, the band launches into an additional three-and-a-half minutes of guitar solos.
They even quote their mid-70s instrumental hit "Jessica" along the way to solidify the point - the Allman Brothers have indeed returned.
Songs like "Desdemona," "Instrumental Illness" and "Rockin' Horse" show the band moving fluidly from ballads to rock to funk, all tempered with the tasty southern blues that made the Allman Brothers famous.
The band frequently steps unapologetically into wide-open jams. Still, the focus here is on great songwriting, not merely pasting riffs together to justify the solos. The most surprising element remains Derek Trucks, the youngest member of the band and Butch's nephew, who solos with taste and skill that belie his age.
With playing that is fluid, reckless, refined, brash and soulful, the highlights are many on Hittin' The Note. Everything a music lover could want is here in spades: top notch song writing, beautiful harmonies, a dense and sophisticated rhythmic section and incredible playing - great-God-almighty-I-may-never-play-another-note-so-I'm-going-for-it playing. " -- John D. Bess
- All Music Guide ****1/2:" There have been many tales of terror, nervousness, and depression — as well as raw excitement and anticipation — since the Allmans went into the studio to make their first album of new material in a decade, and the band's first record ever without guitarist Dickey Betts, who wrote and sang the last of the band's true hits in the 1970s. The result weighs on the latter side of the equation — nervousness and fear that the old-road dogs didn't have it in them to make new music are completely unfounded. Hittin' the Note is the band's finest studio outing since Brothers and Sisters over 20 years before. The level of songwriting, inspiration, and execution is more than admirable; it's downright bone-chilling in places. The Allman/Haynes collaboration "Desdemona," while centered in Southern soul and earthy blues, is a rock & roll powerhouse with glorious jazz overtones à la "In Memory of Elizabeth Reed" in the instrumental break. Haynes, whose ringing, stinging tone cuts through the mix like a fine-edged stiletto, is complemented beautifully by Derek Trucks. Trucks displays the round-toned beauty that adds warmth and dimension to the twin-guitar interplay that is very much built on the Duane Allman/Betts model, but creates shadowy chord figures that come more from jazz than blues, adding another shade to the tonal palette. But it's the sheer melodic power and soul feel that comes right through a studio soundboard that is most astonishing. It feels like the Allmans live, which is the thing they most wanted to get across. Instrumentally, the band's fiery exuberance is in abundance — the organ-guitar duel in "Woman Across the River," which features a fine Haynes vocal, is given more thudding intensity by drummers Jaimoe and Butch Trucks and percussionist Marc Quiñones. The bass chair is held down by newcomer Oteil Burbridge, who, like Derek Trucks, adds a younger, more ambitious feel to the rootsy sound of the brothers, with his popped and thumped bass lines that pay often just behind the beat to add space to the framework of a given track. The sprawling "Instrumental Illness" displays the awesome guitar power that the Allmans have at their disposal, as well as their ability to improvise off cues and feelings in a way that would make some jazz musicians jealous. "Old Before My Time," a Haynes/Allman collaboration, is the most haunting song on the record. Allman sings with all the world-weariness that has truly been his lot as a road dog who has endured his share of tragedy. It begins as a folk song, with Haynes' acoustic under Allman's voice before the band enters with slide guitar; staggered in 4/4 time and littered with hand drums and a swell that transforms it into a country song of regret, remorse, and resignation, it literally stops the listener in his or her tracks. There's little time to think about the tune, however, before the spooky, dark, bluesed-out funk of "Who to Believe" comes uncoiling from the speakers like a crawling king snake from the swamp. A wonderful surprise on this set is an absolutely riveting cover of the Rolling Stones' "Heart of Stone," transformed into a rock & roll version of a Ray Price honky tonk song as if it were reinterpreted by Albert King. In sum, Hittin' the Note does exactly what its title claims — 11 tracks' worth and it burns on every one. This album is in-the-pocket, deep-grooving Allman Brothers Band blues-rock at its best." -- Thom Jurek
- Daytona Beach News-Journal ****: "What's that little tyke doing on the cover of the new Allman Brothers Band album? He's looking inquisitively at a single mushroom sprouting from dry, cracked earth, while a herd of elephants stands back, seemingly stopped in mid-stampede.
It's been almost 40 years since the Brothers' genesis in Daytona Beach -- almost 40 years since brothers Gregg and Duane Allman began hittin' the note in area garages and clubs. But, judging from "Hittin' the Note," the band's new album, Gregg must feel like that little tyke. Gregg must feel as if he's snatched a magic mushroom that's plunged him into some surreal, electrified Alice-in-Wonderland universe.
How else can one explain the soulful yet muscular rejuvenation at work on this, the Brothers' first new studio album in nine years?
With drummers and founding members Butch Trucks and Jaimoe still on board, itinerant guitarist Warren Haynes back and young-gun guitarist Derek Trucks (Butch's 21-year-old nephew) now an official Brother, "Hittin' the Note" revives -- and goes beyond -- the band's legendary sonic alchemy.
Though rejuvenated, the Brothers are still tilting at old demons. Hell, the entire ABB story is a tale of survival and revival, so it's no wonder Gregg is still obsessed with those themes, even though these days he's more intrigued by chronicling not the highway to hell, but the highway from hell.
"Ain't it high time you turn yourself around? The high cost of low living is bound to put you six feet in the ground," Allman testifies over his bluesy Hammond B-3 organ on "The High Cost of Low Living." Over the funky snarl of "Firing Line," Allman preaches that's it's possible to change one's direction instead of being changed, for the worse, by one's direction.
The ballads "Old Before My Time" and "Old Friend" -- the latter a masterpiece of high-lonesome, acoustic-guitar folk blues -- are as disquieting as deathbed regrets.
Other tracks will challenge any fan who wants to unfurl the banner of classic Southern rock over these revived Brothers.
"Instrumental Illness" is a 12:04-long workout that will make Phish, Widespread Panic and other Gen-Y jam bands genuflect at the feet of the Brothers. Gregg juices his B-3 with licks that recall jazz organ king Jimmy Smith, guitarists Trucks and Haynes unleash killer, lyrical solos that could slay Orcs at 100 yards, the entire band wades gleefully through funky, Average White Band turf -- and that's just the first six minutes and ten seconds.
Likewise, the 9:17-long "Desdemona" revolves around a jazzy jam -- the very sort that endears the Brothers to the New York hipsters who always pack the Beacon Theater during the band's annual, multi-night stand in the Big Apple.
Throughout the album, Haynes and Derek Trucks sound like the blues-rock equivalent of two soldiers on a week's leave in a land of cheap wine and women -- they're two back-slappin' best buddies who josh and cuss and booze it up and raise hell with their slide guitar work. Although it's Southern rock blasphemy to say so, they rival and -- egads! -- at times surpass the fabled dueling guitars of Duane and Dickey Betts in ye olde Allman days.
"Hittin' the Note" won't change the face of rock. But it may change the faces of rock -- the faces of classic rockers who may have believed the music doesn't award second, or third, chances. Perhaps all it takes is a belief that a magical mushroom, or a magical anything, can sprout any time and anywhere." -- Rick de Yampert
- Amazon.com: "Very rarely is a legendary band able to come up material. Jam band progenitors the Allman Brothers have done better than that, tapping into some of the spark that made them one of the most influential American bands of their time. The lineup has changed due to tragedy, discontent, and plain orneriness, but the band is still able to conjure up dark tales of thwarted romance, dashed ambitions, and enduring friendship and tether them to freefalling slide riffs, jazzy interludes, and soulful blues that have been staples of the band since 1969. Granted, some of the guitar solos aren't an heroic as they were when Dickey Betts
in the fold, but the ballad "Desdamona" is as inspired as "Melissa," and Gregg Allman's singing has never been better." -- Jaan Uhelszki
- BarnesandNoble.com: "It's been almost a decade since the Allmans last holed up inside a studio, and while that span has been a turbulent one -- marked, for one thing, by the contentious departure of guitarist Dickey Betts -- Hittin' the Note shows nary a sign of discord. The band's hallmark sound is essentially unchanged, although new six-string recruit Derek Trucks waxes slightly
jazzier and less intense than Betts. Those who are fond of the Allmans' more open-ended explorations can dig into "Instrumental Illness," a 12-minute assay that delivers plenty of cat-and-mouse interplay. The heads-down, no-nonsense boogie crowd will likewise find sustenance, in the form of the snaky opener "Firing Line," as will those who groove to the sort of roadhouse balladry that Gregg Allman has all but perfected over the decades. ("Desdemona," for instance, conjures up images of the Allman classic "Melissa.") Thanks to the gritty bass playing of Oteil Burbridge (and the three-man percussion section), the Allmans have more spring in their step than they have any right to -- and that bounce proves pretty contagious here." -- David Sprague
- Rolling Stone ***: "These southern-rock road warriors' first studio album since 1994 is surprisingly solid: Returning guitarist Warren Haynes -- the best axman to pass through the band since Duane Allman -- plays with a steely, tensile power, while youngblood Derek Trucks (drummer Butch Trucks' nephew) counterpoints with mellower, more even-keeled lines. It's an effective restatement of the original chemistry between Duane and ex-guitarist Dickey Betts. The other pieces are in place as well: Gregg Allman's gruff, soulful vocals and cool Hammond organ, Oteil Burbridge's melodic, groove-laden bass work, and the rhythmic sizzle of three percussionists. The freewheeling "Instrumental Illness" lets the guitarists riff, climb and, well, hit the note for another dozen minutes. There's nothing radically new going on here, but the level of engagement is noteworthy." -- Parke Puterbaugh
- Oakland Press ***1/2:"When the Allman Brothers Band has the right personnel, it's still one of the finest rock 'n' roll bands on the planet. And on ''Hittin' the Note,'' the Southern rock kingpin's first album of new material in nine years - and its first since ceremoniously dismissing co-founding guitarist Dicky Betts two years ago - the lineup is among the most potent the band has boasted in its 35-year history.
Longtime guitarist Warren Haynes and relative newcomer Derek Trucks, the nephew of drummer Butch Trucks, rank as a tandem with preceding teams such as Betts and the late Duane Allman and Betts and Haynes; they flawlessly replicate the Allman's trademark harmony guitar and slide lines while adding their own touches - particularly Trucks' jazzy flair, which brings new flavors to epic tracks such as the nine-minute-plus ''Desdemona'' and the 12-minute jam ''Instrumental Illness,'' and to the traded solos on a cover of Freddy King's ''Woman Across the River.''
The cigarette and whisky traces of Gregg Allman's voice are particularly effective on this outing, serving well the desperate romance of ''Desdemona,'' the jaunty lust of ''Maydell'' and the earnest confessions of ''High Cost of Low Living'' and ''Old Before My Time,'' as well as lending a resigned weariness to a bluesy cover of the Rolling Stones' ''Time is On My Side.'' ''Old Friend,'' meanwhile, closes the album with a sweetly sentimental acoustic send-off for Allen Woody, the Allmans/Gov't Mule bassist who died in 2000.
The Allmans have had their dicey moments over the years, but this time out the group is hitting all the right notes. " -- Gary Graff
- Chicago Sun Times ***1/2: "When Dickey Betts was invited to exit the Allman Brothers Band in 2000, fans could be forgiven for fearing that the end was near for this venerable Southern rock institution.
Those fears, it turns out, were unfounded.
On "Hittin' the Note," Warren Haynes is back in the fold, and, teamed with the improved and improving guitarist Derek Trucks, he's keeping hope and tradition alive. His slide guitar work, and his dual leads with Trucks conjure up the band's "Eat a Peach" glory days. And Gregg Allman's gruff, world-weary growl will have you insisting that you're listening to vintage Allmans.
"Hittin' the Note" is the year's leading candidate so far for most aptly named record." -- Jeff Wisser
- New York Post ***1/2: "On "Hittin' the Note," nine of the record's 11 songs extend into jams that run longer than five minutes. And the jazzy romp "Instrumental Illness," which features the entire Allman Brothers Band together and in solos, runs an epic 12 minutes.
What's amazing is that despite these lengthy meanderings into improvisation, the noodling bowl isn't overflowing with wasted notes.
Instead, this collection lives up to its name and the Allmans' musical legacy, honoring just about every American music form, from rock to jazz, country and the blues.
To those who thought ABB might not be what they used to be after firing Dickey Betts last year, the twin guitar attack of Warren Haynes and Derek Trucks is great - the guitar equivalent of when John Coltrane and Miles Davis would butt heads.
In all, the disc is very consistent, spiking during the nine-minute "Desdemona," a showcase for Gregg Allman's gritty vocals and his B-3 Hammond organ work.
"Desdemona" starts and finishes as a blues piece, but at the instrumental bridge, the tune bows low to jazz master Dave Brubeck's "Take Five." " -- Dan Aquilante
- Philadelphia Enquirerer ***1/2: "Much has happened in the nine years since the last studio album from the Allman Brothers Band. The jam movement sparked new interest in extended instrumental explorations. Alt-country introduced several generations to quirky Southern music and old-time mountain hymns. Scruffy rural blues, in several regional varieties, became fashionable again.
All of which makes this an ideal moment for new music from the legendary Georgia wrecking crew, built around the whiskey-wise voice of Gregg Allman and the writhing heroics of two lead guitarists, this time Warren Haynes and Derek Trucks.
The band, which has been known to sleepwalk through latter-day gigs, doesn't pass up the opportunity. With the surprising Hittin' the Note, it has roared awake, tearing into muscular 12-bar blues and inventive ballads that hark back to, but never imitate, the band's Eat a Peach heyday.
Note dusts off several durable Allman themes - "Firing Line," the first single, wonders when a wayward soul will put his life back together, and "Desdemona," built around Allman's dejected-drifter vocals, appreciates the steadying force of a woman.
Just as important, the album gives both guitarists room to shine. The middle of "Desdemona" includes a memorable swing foray. And the entrancing 12-minute jam "Instrumental Illness" features episodes of simmering tension culminating in dramatic peaks that can teach the jam kids a thing or two about pacing." -- Tom Moon
- Fort Worth Star Telegram ***1/2: "The Allman Brothers Band has stayed very busy over the past nine years.
First and foremost, the ABB has toured extensively, every summer, cementing its status as professors emeritus of the jam-band scene. Gregg Allman has gotten clean and sober, whiz-kid slide guitarist Derek Trucks has joined, founding member Dickey Betts was fired and, more recently, guitarist/vocalist Warren Haynes -- who also leads Gov't Mule -- has rejoined.
It hasn't all been easy, or pretty, but there is, finally, new music to show for it: The new Hittin' the Note, the band's first studio CD in nine years, is a skillfully done, astutely played 11-song effort that proves the band still has a creative spark.
In fact, I'd take this CD over 1994's Where It All Begins; though that was a solid enough record, Hittin' has more highlights and more consistency. Whether it's a cover of Freddie King's Woman Across the River, a roadhouse rocker like Maydell or a jazzier workout such as the 11-minute Instrumental Illness, Hittin' sounds more unified and more supple.
Allman's voice is in fine form, and Hittin' features more songs that fit his style than any ABB record in a long, long time. His vocals on Desdemona and a cover of the Rolling Stones' Heart of Stone fairly bleed with the force of a lifetime of singing the blues.
The band has always made its impact by blending the blues with serious jazz chops, and that formula is in full effect here, with Trucks' and Haynes' guitars meshing; better than any team since Betts and Duane Allman.
And in the end, this is as much Haynes' CD as anyone's: With his playing, his writing and his soulful singing, Haynes has established himself as one of the most important Southern rock musicians of the past quarter-century.
He's now the band's true linchpin, and it's a testament to his abilities that this CD is so strong with him, not Betts, as the featured guitarist. With any luck he'll continue to split his time between the Brothers and the Mule; if he does, I doubt it'll be another nine years before we get another strong, assured Allmans record. " -- Dave Ferman
- Times Union, Albany, NY ***: "The Allman Brothers Band unleashes its first set of new tunes in almost a decade, "Hittin' The Note" (Peach/Sanctuary) - - and clearly has prepared for the occasion. Restoring these blues- tinged country rockers to prominence in the jam band world, the set comes alive with sturdy songs like "Desdemona" and "Maydell," signature chiming guitar lines (with returning friend Warren Haynes helping out), and super-stretched reveries. Nothing surpasses the 12- minute "Instrumental Illness." -- Jonathan Takiff
- Star Ledger, New Jersey ***: "The Allman Brothers' first album of new material in nine years didn't offer high expectations. Although the seminal Southern blues-rock band has been touring regularly over the past decade, this record looked like a tribute project due to the absence of the great guitarist Dickey Betts, who single-handedly maintained the group's credibility for years and years after the 1971 death of co-guitarist Duane Allman. Circumstances changed and in 2000, the band kicked out Betts.
But "Hittin' the Note" is a surprisingly strong effort. It often approaches and sometimes reaches the level of Allman recordings of yore.
The band's present guitarists -- longtime blues jammer Warren Haynes and Derek Trucks, nephew of Butch Trucks, the band's original and current drummer -- are up to the daunting task. The pair share the Allmans' trademark harmonized lead guitar lines in an agile manner that re-creates the classic sound but still makes it sound fresh. Although the leads never quite reach the ambitious heights of the band's glory days in the early '70s, the jams take flight and take shape in a lyrical, expansive yet rational manner that sets a good example for younger jam bands. Meanwhile, Gregg Allman's hard-bitten, Southern-blues voice sounds only a bit thinner and craggier than it did 30 years ago.
The record starts off with a jolt. There's the pointed, hard-driving blues-rocker "Firing Line," the tasty blues ballad "High Cost of Low Living" and the powerful "Desdemona," a slow-cooking blues with a wrenching guitar solo that ranks with classic Allman songs. "Old Before My Time" is a gripping, soulful ballad, and a lilting, slow-blues take on one of the Rolling Stones' spookiest songs, "Heart of Stone," provides another treat.
Although much of the rest of "Hittin' the Note" serves up competent but somewhat generic Allman run-throughs, the high points are frequent and deliver more satisfaction than anyone could have anticipated at this point. The Allman Brothers Band is alive and kicking, and that's good news." -- Ben Horowitz
- Billboard: "It's been a long and often tumultuous nine years since the Allman Brothers Band put out a studio album. The group hit an especially low point with the departure of longtime guitarist/singer Dickey Betts in 2000. But the Allmans have been through hard times before and as "Hittin' the Note" reveals, you can never count them out. And with one of the world's best bassists (Oteil Burbridge), one of its best slide guitarists (Warren Haynes), and Southern rock's best-aged icon (Gregg Allman), why would you?
Running 75 minutes long, "Hittin' the Note" is largely comprised of the epic blues-based jamming for which the band is best known. Standout tracks include opener "Firing Line," "Desdemona," and the jaw-dropping, 12-minute improv adventure "Instrumental Illness," each proving this act is still evolving. In particular, the jazz-infused style of second guitarist Derek Trucks calls to mind Grant Green, as well as his Allman forebearers, and allows the group to cover a bit of new ground.
Of course, this album is not a complete revelation. The music on "Note" is standard Allman Brothers fare. The lyrics are filled with well-tested blues imagery: long hard roads, low living, mean old women. Some might consider the material tired, but this is the stuff from which great roadhouse rock is built. And the Allman Brothers continually surprise the listener by showing just why these old formulas are still celebrated today.
On closer "Old Friend," Greg Allman sings, "Hard times are just an old friend to me." There's no doubt problems follow this man and his now three-decade old band like the fabled hell hound of a Robert Johnson song. But naturally, the band's never-ending trials and tribulations continue to fuel the music they burn. "Hittin' the Note" stands as testament to the power of the blues and a remarkable achievement for a group that continues to show incredible strength in the face of ongoing adversity." -- Ben French
- MusicToday.com: "Starting in the late '60s, the legendary Allman Brothers Band practically wrote the book on hard-hitting, jammed-out blues-rock. What set the Statesboro, Georgia, group apart was a combination of scintillating live performances, true heartfelt soul, and timeless songs like "Ramblin' Man," "Whipping Post," and "Melissa." Whether it was the sweet singing of two guitars in unison, the very different but equally soulful vocalists, or the rumble of two drum sets working perfectly together, the Allmans were a tremendous force in rock 'n' roll radio during the 1970s. ABB has remained a huge draw on the live concert scene since then, attracting both longtime fans and followers of the newly burgeoning jam band set. With the release of their 17th album, Hittin' The Note, Gregg Allman and Co. prove they've still got the know-how to make great music.
Whether a band can make quality music two decades after its period of greatest popularity can be endlessly argued. Certainly, nostalgia plays a part in the psyche of those who would argue no, just as surely as classic rock songs will forever be associated with the 1970s. In the last few years, however, the Allman's have added three exceptional young musicians, including Oteil Burbridge, whose daring bass playing adds fiery intensity to a firmly established sound. And the band's next generation of gunslinging guitar players, Gov't Mule's Warren Haynes and 23-year-old Derek Trucks, himself a band leader, are every bit as technically gifted as ABB's founding axe-men. Haynes and Trucks insert their own youthful exuberance and modern influences into the mix, but stay true to the fundamental Allmans sound with ripping solos, call and response, and harmonized guitar runs. Longtime drummers Jaimoe Johanny Johanson and Butch Trucks are still powerfully in sync, thundering through each track with telepathic fills and stops. Many of the album's songs recall triumphs from years past, right down to the extended jams on "Desdemona" and the twelve-minute "Instrumental Illness," a tune that will stir up memories from a long way back for ABB lovers. But not every track sticks to the proven formula. Haynes gets the microphone on a few numbers, contributing his pained vocals to the funky "Woman Across The River," and his gutbucket slide guitar to the disc-ending "Old Friend."
Throughout, Gregg Allman weaves his distinct, troubled vocals and deft keyboard/organ lines around 11 new cuts, almost all of them entertaining. At times, Allman sounds a bit tired, particularly on the ironically titled "Old Before My Time," but on most songs, ABB is in vintage form. Which brings us to the difference between the Allman Brothers Band of today and the Allman Brothers Band of 25 years ago—immediately recognizable hits. Everyone involved had to know that a song like "Midnight Rider" was going to be huge. Hittin' The Note has no such luxury. It's a good record that should stick around for a while, but it's not going to light up the charts." --
- Maxim ***1/2: "Despite the deaths of founding members Duane Allman and Berry Oakley and the recent departure of longtime guitarist Dicky Betts, the Allman Brothers roll on. But don’t confuse them with that other pole of Southern rock, the tragically addled Lynyrd Skynyrd. The Allmans’ first studio record in nearly a decade is more than an exercise in nostalgia. The fluid, piercing guitar lines that have become their post-Duane signature are ably played by on-again, off-again Allman Warren Haynes and second-generation Brother Derek Trucks. The loose-limbed rhythm section lays down a boogie-woogie backbeat on “Maydell” and “Rockin’ Horse,” earning the band their status as mother of all jam bands, though the 12-minute “Instrumental Illness” meanders for about five minutes longer than anyone who hasn’t trailed the Dead cross-country in a van will tolerate. Fortunately, Gregg Allman’s throaty voice gets better with age, as evidenced by his bluesy growl on “Desdemona” and, particularly, the spare, hard-earned “Old Before My Time.” While the Rolling Stones embarrass themselves with their rock ’n’ roll Peter Pan act, the Allmans own up to their gray hairs, finding the wisdom that came with them."
- Long Island Press 8 out of 10: "For their first album since 1994's "Where It All Begins", the Allman Brothers welcome back into the fold Warren Haynes (taking over for the less-than-amicably removed Dickie Betts), for a record packed with cuts hovering between the seven- and 12-minute mark. In the hands of less-talented bands, jam-driven songs usually fall headfirst into the category of unnecessary and self-indulgent excess. Under the auspices of masters like the ABB, however, songs like these take on an organic and unencumbered flow that can be directly attributed to the uncanny chemistry developed over hundreds of hours spent playing together. Which means songs like the very jazz-inflected "Instrumental Illness" and the pleading soul of "Desdemona", which clock in at 12 and nine minutes-plus respectively, sound fresh and unforced. Gregg Allman remains the spiritual heart of the band - his gruff vocals and tasty organ come across best on the semi-autobiographical groove-fest "High Cost of Low Living". Not to be discounted is the stee-tight bottom provided by bassist Oteil Burbridge plus longtime drumming tandem of Butch Trucks and Jaimoe that hearkens back to the band's glory days." -- Dave Gil de Rubio