Duane Allman’s guitar riffs are memorialized on Skydog
By Vince Meserko
On March 19th, Rounder Records will release Skydog, a 7 disc box-set spanning the entire career of guitarist Duane Allman. Allman is widely considered one of the greatest guitarists of all time despite dying at age 24 in a motorcycle accident. While Duane’s work with The Allman Brothers Band and Derek & the Dominos is rightly canonized, he was also a remarkably agile studio musician. Allman played on sessions with James Carr, Aretha Franklin, and Wilson Pickett among others. In anticipation of the release of “Skydog” I have compiled a list of my favorite Duane Allman soul sessions:
- Doris Duke – “Ghost of Myself” – Duane’s understated guitar is prominently featured on this soul balled from Doris Duke. He makes the most of his few moments in the spotlight with two perfectly executed lead breaks. Every note is precisely timed and spot-on.
- Aretha Franklin – “It Ain’t Fair” – More understated playing from Duane. His light slide guitar interweaves with King Curtis’ sax without ever getting in the way. Duane does a lot with a little.
- Ella Brown – “Touch Me” – Duane demonstrates an impeccable sense of timing on this gorgeous track from Ella Brown. The horns blast out front, but Duane follows perfectly in the background, filling out the horn parts with some high bent notes.
- Spencer Wiggins – “I Never Loved a Woman (The Way I Love You)” – While Duane’s playing on the previous ballads is light and clean, his leads and closing slide guitar are considerably dirtier on this Spencer Wiggins Goldwax track.
- Clarence Carter – “The Road of Love” – Nothing understated about Duane’s slide guitar on this funky soul-blues track from Clarence Carter. Duane’s slide is nasty and out in front, the way it should be. Later in the song he switches away from the slide and plays some great ascending and descending lead licks.
- Arthur Conley – “Stuff You Gotta Watch” – This is a very memorable performance from Duane on what is otherwise a pretty tepid release from Conley. He plays an impossibly funky rhythm guitar part at the beginning of the song and plays call-and-response with Conley throughout the song. At the very end, Duane really lets it rip.
- Wilson Pickett – “Hey Jude” – I love the Beatles, but Pickett’s version is the definitive one in my opinion. Duane takes it easy until the 2:45 mark when Pickett lets out a a howling scream as horns blast in the background. Then Duane peels off one of the greatest solos in the history of soul music. His guitar absolutely screams out of the gates and sends this one into orbit. Gives me goosebumps every time.
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