“He used to say soul shine,
It’s better than sunshine.
It’s better than moonshine.
Damn sure better than rain.”
The Allman Brothers Band are one of the most innovative bands of the 20th century. With a string of genre defining albums for Capricorn Records in the seventies, they discovered musical pathways uncharted by other groups. Fusing Jazz, Blues, Rock N Roll and Country, they took a twin lead guitar approach with slide maestro Duane Allman and melodic tunesmith Dickey Betts. The two players together created a string of hook-laden masterpieces, almost lyrical in sound. The soulful vocals of brother Gregg Allman, in addition to his mastery of the Hammond B-3 organ, perfectly complimented the instrumentation. When other bands play the Allman Brothers songs today, they sound like the Allman Brothers. It is one of the highest compliments a musician can pay, as the Allmans do not just write songs, they create statements dependent on their musical arrangements. Each release was full of fan favorites and radio staples like ‘Whipping Post’, ‘Jessica’, ‘Ramblin Man’ and ‘Midnight Rider’ just to name a few. Rounding out the lineup was Berry Oakley on bass and Butch Trucks and Jaimoe on drums, respectively.
The devastating loss of Duane Allman and Berry Oakley in the early seventies took a heavy toll on the band, sideling them for the several years. They soldiered on with quality players, but the magic faded over time and they drifted apart both musically and personally. While their influence on today’s musical landscape is undeniable, the band was seen as unsalvageable by the late eighties. Gregg Allman and Dickey Betts were each embarking on successful solo ventures, releasing well received albums and touring with revamped groups. It was The Dickey Betts Band, however, who furnished the Allman Brothers Band with the replacements they needed to emerge as survivors in the nineties.
Warren Haynes, a North Carolina born guitar virtuoso, led the Betts band on the outstanding album “Pattern Disruptive” for Epic Records. Haynes had played with David Allen Coe previously, and Betts enlisted him when it came time to reform the Allman Brothers for a reunion tour to back their fantastic 1988 box set “Dreams”. Anyone filling the shoes of the late Duane Allman would need to walk a very fine line between mimicry and desecration and Haynes played the part perfectly. He was talented enough to fill the void with his natural talent and soulfulness, playing Dwayne’s parts but adding his own flair to the proceedings. The first studio album by this new lineup was the rejuvenated “Seven Turns” in 1990. All members sounded creatively motivated and the new members created a band that at once seemed fresh and reverential at the same time. Haynes emerged on this album not only as a talented guitar foil for Betts, but also as a new writer in the group adding songs to their massive catalog.
The song ‘Soulshine’ has become a standard for the Allman Brothers Band, recorded and released on their 1994 album “Where it All Begins”. The song has a definite guitar hook reminiscent of the best Duane Allman compositions, but also a plaintive delivery from consummate soul man Gregg who makes the song his own on the original release. Haynes wrote the song, a personal rumination on his childhood memories, and paired it to the classic Allman Brothers sound to great effect. He has since performed it solo, as well as with his side project, the immensely popular Gov’t Mule. Recorded in Jupiter, Florida, the album was the last to feature this second classic group lineup. Haynes and bassist Allen Woody left in the late nineties to focus on Gov’t Mule full time and founding member Betts was relieved of duty in 2000. In a strange twist of fate, Warren Haynes was brought in to replace Dickey Betts and has filled his seat since. Allen Woody also died in this time period, leaving another great void in the Allman Brothers world. Today, the band soldiers on with a variety of new members, touring each year to continued success. ‘Soulshine’ is not only a classic song but also a fabulous reminder of how amazing this lineup of the Allman Brothers Band truly was.