Berry, Berry, Berry, dear lord if Berry could have just hung in there flat picking the bass like a guitarist working alongside Dickey what a dream that would have been. We catch glimpses of this in the outtakes.
Brothers and Sisters proper comes to us with Berry only on two tracks. And while we can hear him funk it up beautifully on Wasted Words with the ABB's opening swagger fully present he's lost in the mix of Ramblin Man. Dickey and Les Dudek’s guitars jangle out front so far that Berry's left to anchoring down passive beats.
Duane gets the headlines understandable but Berry is a beautiful and unique player his loss is just as immeasurable. So it is with great joy that on the rehearsals on disc two Berry is featured on four more cuts.
To hear Berry funkin' it up on Southbound is fantastic. It's an instrumental take and they just get right into it with Chuck Leavell. In the liner notes I seem to recall Chuck's glowing words about how accommodating and welcoming was Berry. It’s such a shame we couldn’t have had a healthy fully realized Berry for as long as we had Gregg and Butch and have Jaimoe, and Dickey.
Duane and Berry one or the other sacrificed to the music gods is bad enough (horrible for family and friends) but losing both wow what a devastating blow across the board. But we have their music and the soul of their expression.
On another rehearsal take the ABB casually saunters into Outskirts of Town with a mellow sway that gives Gregg and Chuck ample opportunity to play together and create. It's fantastic hearing so much of Gregg’s playing and alternating sounds as he and Chuck trade passages.
The final track of the Rehearsal Disc is simply called “A Minor Jam” and it features Les Dudek, Chuck and Lamar with just Butch and Jaimoe. Maybe this is the birth of Sea Leavell in Chuck's mind? I can certainly see that germinating because this track just rips it up in a jazz inflected cadence that jumps out with a crescendo and a very fast back swing. It’s a tremendous track and clocks in at a healthy sixteen plus minutes. I absolutely love it.
So “what if” Les had been brought in would the ABB had more of a jazz fusion bite than it already was going to have? Listen to this cut if you haven't in a while. It's strong. So what's up with the whole Les Dudek thing?
According to Les after Duane died Dickey was going to form his own band. There was plenty of music at that time in Macon including the Caldwell Brothers and Marshall Tucker. Everybody was cross pollinating with each other and Les was living in Macon as well. Gregg asked Dickey to hang in there with the ABB and Brothers and Sisters was born. It appropriately features four Betts originals with Les Dudek’s help on Ramblin’ Man and Jessica.
Les is a great sideman who played with a bunch of heavy weights including Steve Miller and he has the chops. He would have really flourished with the ABB rhythm section and Chuck and their collective vision. Les's solo albums in my opinion don't come anywhere near the glimpse we get here with the McCoy Tanneresqu so called "A Minor Jam". It's a heavy jazz stretch that works and I for one would like to hear more of Les Dudek from these sessions.
The thing is Les is still out there and so is Chuck and so is Jaimoe. It offers intriguing possibilities and I'd sure as hell would buy a ticket and purchase the music. Lamar sounds great on this track so the bass player needs to have that jazz soul as well. If I were King I would make this happen.
Disc one features the original release and while we were all captured by Jessica the blues swing of Jelly, Jelly and Pony Boy really still captures my heart after all these years. The sequencing of the songs is excellent and Southbound just jumps out after Jelly, Jelly. After Jessica triumphantly closes Pony Boy waltzes in with a piece of straw in its mouth and a casual tude that flat out states fuck this bullshit we’re alive lets have some fun. It’s rambunctious, it's acoustic with a standup bass and closes with some dueling hambone and a subtle chuckle at the end what’s not to like?
There is not a bad song on Brothers and Sister and it’s a triumph of perseverance and vision. It’s worlds away from Beginnings, Fillmore, and Peach but respectfully so and how could it not be? The road going on forever such as it does you’ve got to expect a few turns even radical and so we all have. Dickey’s melodic technique and voice come to the fore different than Duane but well established and part of the texture and landscape we had come to love. A necessary foil to Duane’s greasy slide attack and taste Dickey is now out front on his own. Truthfully in some parts of the many varied tracks on this monster release even with Chuck Leavell’s enormous talent Dickey just sounds lonely and it’s sometimes sad. I’m not taking anything away from the music but it must have occurred to him as well and all the band.
You have to compartmentalize the sounds of the ABB before and after Duane and Berry don't compare them. It's then and only then that they both stand as monumental pillars of our global musical heritage second to none both historically and righteously forever in the moment and hitting the note.