Various Artists

Wintertime Blues: The Benefit Concert

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This double-CD chronicles the 11th Annual Christmas Jam, a concert benefiting Habitat for Humanity, which was held at the Thomas Wolfe Auditorium in Asheville, NC, on December 22, 1999. The benefit was organized by singer/guitarist Warren Haynes, of the Allman Brothers Band and the founder of Gov't Mule, and the list of other performers reflects Haynes' background. The Derek Trucks Band, led by Allman Brothers guitarist Derek Trucks (nephew of Allmans drummer Butch Trucks), anchors the first disc, while Gov't Mule takes up much of the second. The album opens with three songs from Edwin McCain, accompanied on two of them by Haynes. He proves to be an earnest, literate singer/songwriter, and he gives way to the Derek Trucks Band, which takes up the rest of the disc, adding Allmans guitarist Jimmy Herring, Col. Bruce Hampton, Susan Tedeschi, and Larry McCray along the way. As might be expected, the Trucks Band's sound is heavily derived from the Allmans, especially when "Yield Not to Temptation" segues into the old favorite "Turn on Your Lovelight." That means plenty of extended blues-rock guitar solos over a churning rhythm section. When McCain returns to sing on "Don't Change Horses," he even sounds like a growling Gregg Allman. The second disc leads off with Tedeschi, sounding a lot like Bonnie Raitt on the Raitt signature song "Angel From Montgomery," and continues with a reunion of the band Cry of Love, which comes off on its two selections like a resurrection of Free. Gov't Mule then takes over with a set prominently featuring Allmans keyboardist Johnny Neel and including such guests as Little Milton to give a bluesier feel to the concluding material. By the time of the ballad "Fallen Down," even Haynes is sounding like Gregg Allman, and the result is that the concert as a whole might as well be credited to "the Allman Brothers Band: The Next Generation." But with accomplished guitarists like Haynes and Trucks, fans of Southern rock have no reason to complain.

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