The Allman Brothers Band Drop Workhorse Original Lineup Show On ‘Down in Texas ’71)

For the most devoted music lovers, Peachheads or otherwise, the Allman Brothers’ superlative musicianship on Down in Texas ’71 will no doubt transcend many, if not all, the shortfalls of this archive release. And certainly, that’s as it should be, even as, with repeated listenings, the inadequacies of the package continue to nag, at least to some degree.

There is no question this performance of the Brothers’ original lineup carries intrinsic historical value. The single CD contains a show at the Austin Municipal Auditorium in the Lone Star State, occurring September 28, 1971, virtually a month to the day before the tragic passing of founding member and guitarist Duane Allman. And throughout, the sextet displays unity and collective confidence based on the near-relentless tour schedule it maintained in the wake of releasing their now-iconic concert album At Fillmore East just weeks before. 

There is a consistent fire and surety in the playing even as the audio waxes and wanes. No doubt mastering engineer Jason NeSmith, who applied his tangible skill to last year’s Trouble No More box set, did his best with the (unspecified) sonic source, but details of various instruments still come and go at various intervals, particularly keyboards and bass, while near-complete dropouts occur as on “Don’t Keep Me Wonderin’.”  Yet it is still worth listening (hard) as “Skydog” and guitar partner Dickey Betts refuse to waste notes during “Done Somebody Wrong.” 

Their interplay is all the more intense for its self-discipline. As is that of double drummers Jaimoe and Butch Trucks, who never call attention to themselves even when, in their tight bond with bassist Berry Oakley, they are driving the band at a most furious pace during “One Way Out.” Meanwhile, younger Allman brother Gregg Allman evinces a panache all his own: his insouciance in  spitting out “Trouble No More” makes the version on Eat A Peach sound polite and, as with Live from A&R Studios (recorded In New York roughly thirty days prior), he is ever more deeply inhabiting “Stormy Monday.” 

Per the wishes of their titular leader, The Allman Brothers maintained a somewhat limited repertoire during this period. As a result, the titles listed on the back cover of Down In Texas ’71 may seem overly familiar. Still, the band could change up their setlists somewhat, so while this truncated set lacks the extended “Whipping Post” with which the Brothers usually closed their headlining shows (and no segue to “Mountain Jam”),  “You Don’t Love Me” runs just over fifteen minutes and allows plenty of time for the band to dig into some heavy riffing novel for this particular number. 

Of course, that makes this furious conclusion of “Hot “Lanta” all that much more of a dramatic flourish at the end. The fact is, however, these nine tracks do not constitute the complete show from this early fall evening: besides a fade-in on the “Statesboro Blues” opener that excises the familiar introductory lick, various on-line sources reveal that ABB did come out for an additional tune, Dickey Betts’ “Revival” from Idlewild South. Likewise aggravating in terms of omissions is the nine-minute and thirteen-second duration of “In Memory of Elizabeth Reed;” although annotated ‘Incomplete’ –with no explanation—in the tracklisting on the back cover, the printed playing time is incorrect (as are those for the first and last of the cuts). 

The famous Betts instrumental is also notable for the presence of saxophonist Rudolph Carter. A frequent on-stage guest of the Brothers,  he was somewhat summarily dismissed by producer Tom Dowd after the initial set of the New York run earlier this same year, for reasons as readily apparent here as on the comprehensive six-CD compendium The 1971 Fillmore East Recordings; as with the other five numbers on which this old pal of the band appears, his contributions are unobtrusive at best and, at worst, offer evidence he is wholly lost how to keep up with the band in full-flight or marshaling its resources for same. 

A thirteen-minute radio interview appended to the roughly fifty-five minutes of music within Down In Texas ’71 may be intended to compensate for the aforementioned shortages in the performances. Conducted in Houston the previous June with the elder Allman and Oakley, the recorded conversation may seem an odd pairing, but upon reflection, it is especially thought-provoking: both these men died in eerily similar motorcycle accidents approximately within a year of each other. Still, it is a less-than-scintillating dialogue and ultimately comes across as reflective of the nostalgia that permeates this title, a factor accentuated by its release date on the actual anniversary of the Allman Brothers Band’s formation. 

As included on a color insert alongside reproductions of memorabilia (and ads for merch!?), John Lynskey’s essay only ratchets up the sentimental value. Proceeds from this item’s sales benefit the ABB’s Georgia museum, ‘The Big House,’ so it makes sense to share the fervent enthusiasm of its executive director Richard Brent: his unmitigated passion mirrors the fierce loyalty of this band’s fans. But for transparency’s sake, some of that prose might’ve given way to a disclaimer on recording the likes of which (appropriately) appeared on each one of the original five Allman archive releases.

The mushroom logo on the cover of Down In Texas ’71 makes this one of the most handsome of Allmans’ vault releases. And while the significance of that image may not be immediately recognizable to music lovers outside the group’s devoted community, the fire, and bravado of these musicians surely will be, even if it’s sometimes difficult to discern.

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