Brothers and Sisters was the album where The Allman Brothers Band made a concerted effort to rebuild themselves following the blow of the death of slide guitar maestro Duane Allman in 1971. Guitar player Dickey Betts had assumed leadership of the band, and he takes sole credit for four of the seven tracks that make up Brothers and Sisters, however inevitably the album was almost derailed by he death of bass player Berry Oakley midway through the sessions.
The album sees The Allman Brothers Band develop slightly from the dual-guitar Southern Rock blues-jam sound that they had done so much to popularise, to begin to assimilate a slightly more rootsy country-rock sound, with Greg Allman’s opening “Wasted Words” being one of the finest examples of this revised sound on the album. The whole album has an unmistakably American 70s rock vibe, at an audio junction where multicutltural long-haired hippydom, blues rock, country-rock and FM radio rock meet for a jam.
The move away from the bluesy slide sound of their early albums was inevitable given the sad loss of Duane Allman, however in doing so, they lost one of the vital elements that had made albums like At Filmore East and Eat a Peach such iconic releases. That said American rock was making general shift towards country rock at the time anyway, so it was the ideal time for The Allman Brothers Band to tap into this movement and release a statement to confirm that, in spite of their loses, they were still very much a going concern and making efforts to evolve their sound.
For all their success in America, The Allman Brothers Band never made much in the way of inroads to the British music market, so much of Brothers and Sisters will be unfamiliar to rock fans this side of the Atlantic. The one track from the album that the majority of Brits will be familiar with is Betts’ “Jessica”, which is instantly recognisable as the theme-tune from Top Gear. With its twin harmonic guitars and glorious melody, it’s a wonderful instrumental that deserves to be enjoyed beyond being known as a theme tune to a light-entertainment programme.
While there are other Allman Brothers Band albums that have better withstood the test of time, Brothers and Sisters found them in a vital transitionary phase, and fans of country-flecked blues rock will find much to enjoy here.