Yes, they’re back with Seven Turns, their first studio recording in nine years — the venerable Allman Brothers Band, which in the ’70s enlarged some of their songs (like ”Mountain Jam” on the 1972 album Eat a Peach) into entranced meditations more than 30 minutes long.
They don’t do that anymore. Instead they’ve recorded an admirable album of taut and mostly uncomplicated Southern boogie. The musicians are a classic Allmans lineup that includes the four surviving members of the Eat a Peach group — singer and organist Gregg Allman, guitarist Dickey Betts, and drummers Jaimoe and Butch Trucks — joined by three new guys playing guitar, keyboards, and bass. The old members of the band sound lean and tough; the new ones easily keep up with the pace, especially keyboardist Johnny Neel, who crunches out piano solos so hot that smoke must have been pouring from his ears while he played.
Lead vocals are mostly divided between Allman (seasoned, hoarse) and Betts (smoother, but a lot less tasty). The songs have classic Southern boogie themes: In the title cut the band goes howling down the highway like a leaf blown by the wind; ”Loaded Dice” introduces the archetypal bad girl who plays dirty in love. There’s one dead spot, an instrumental disaster called ”True Gravity” that sounds like a flashy blend of jazz fusion and Muzak, though it does prove the band still can play music more extravagant than basic rock. But then the other songs on the album prove the same thing. In ”It Ain’t Over Yet,” for example, the linked harmony of two guitars marches slowly from the depths of the music to majestic heights, without disturbing the onrushing beat for even a moment. The Allman Brothers Band has returned from the wilderness, playing traditional rock that’s not always as simple as it seems.