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Published: 2005/10/12
by Jeremy Sanchez

Dickey Betts & Great Southern:- Back Where it all Begins Live at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame + Museum

I spent the ages from 9 through 18 in a rural section of Virginia, where ZZ Top (my first concert), AC/DC, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Led Zeppelin and the Allman Brothers Band are still kings of rock and roll’s hill old songs just won’t be beat. So, even in the late 90s, I found my way into the jam scene through bands like the Allman Brothers and the Grateful Dead, rather than the more common influence of Phish that a lot of people my age (24) might cite. I’m thankful the classics shaped my head in those vacuum-like stomping grounds. When I saw an ad for this new Dickey Betts DVD, I couldn’t wait to have a look at his first ever DVD release Live at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (Sept 29, 2004) with his completely talented band, Great Southern. I hadn’t heard anything from Dickey Betts and Great Southern, but my premonitions that Betts still wouldn’t release bunk were right on.

The sound on this DVD is among the best quality on any live release, from anyone. The bonus section is ample, with soundcheck footage of “Southbound” and “Blue Sky,” and two interview sections to fill you in on Betts’ life. A bonus CD has soundcheck versions of “Southbound,” “Blue Sky,” “In Memory of Elizabeth Reed” and, from the Hall of Fame performance, “Donna Marie” (not on the DVD) and “Jessica.”

Before the show, Betts talks about the necessity to play songs in different ways when you’re playing them on a regular basis. It’s the only way to keep a touring fanbase (something he’s seen with the Allman Brothers Band) and a vibrant personal relationship with the music. Betts just happens to have a musical history deep enough to keep decades-old songs like “Statesboro Blues” and “Ramblin’ Man” still kicking. Creative and tight-knit musical partners fuel the musing. Great Southern is made of guitarist Danny Toler, drummer Frankie Lombardi, Gregg-Allman-esque pianist (sporting a Hammond) Michael Kach, and one of the best improvisational bassists I’ve heard, Pedro Arevalo.

After a round of “Statesboro Blues,” Betts tips his brim and says, “Jerry Garcia,” triggering a “Franklin’s Tower” tease > “Blue Sky.” Certainly, the Allman Brothers Band wouldn’t have been or be what it is without the Grateful Dead and their fans. So kudos on the Garcia nod. “Change My Way of Living” is honky-tonk blues-rock at its best, “Ramblin’ Man” precedes “Back Where it all Begins,” and then ol’ Robert Johnson invades, throwing a slide onto Betts’ left middle finger for a brilliant “Come On in My Kitchen.” “Seven Turns’” country roots break land, and a branch from the Betts tree of life (Dickey Betts’ son, Duane Betts) guests on guitar during “In Memory of Elizabeth Reed.” Duane Betts appears a little uncomfortable, but eventually finds his groove and solos away. Give him some time and he might catch ol’ dad. The strutting blues-rock of “No One to Run With” uncovers “Jessica,” ending the DVD with a well-known number.

Without being overtly “just some live DVD of a man from the Allman Brothers Band,” at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame trying to cash in with a side group, this DVD makes testament to the greatness of the parts-of-the-whole that was the Allman Brothers Band. I’m not talking about the band you can see today for a ticket price, but the band of talented backwoods boys from way back whena pioneering team of individuals including Dickey Betts. Watching him perform, many years removed from that original entity, it’s obvious that the Allman Brothers Band is legendary because of more than just its namesakes.

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