“Might Be Your Man” . . . : “One Way Out” – A Comparative Study In Blues

My cable provider has a section of channels called Music Choice which are basically a bunch of audio music channels with each channel dedicated to a specific music genre/style. I sometimes put it on as background while I am working. The other day I had my t.v. on to their blues channel when I heard a version of the song “One Way Out” that I wasn’t familiar with. I couldn’t get to the t.v. in time to see who was doing it so I began a little online research. The version that I (and most other people) know was performed by The Allman Brothers Band. That version was performed at the Fillmore East’s final show on June 27, 1971 and released on 1972’s “Eat A Peach”. That record credited the song to bluesman Sonny Boy Williamson II but there are multiple versions of the song. Comparing the different versions offers a interesting view into the malleability of blues songs.

The first version appears to have been recorded by Elmore James sometime late 1960 of early 1961 but wasn’t released until 1965 in a full band arrangement with horn section. In the interim, Sonny Boy Williamson II recorded and released a version of the song in September 1961 and subsequently re-recorded a different arrangement of One Way Out in September 1964, this time with Buddy Guy on guitar. The second version is faster and features a more prominent guitar riff as well as the having the band drop out when Sonny Boy sings “Might be your man . . I don’t know”. These elements will show up in the Allman Brothers version. Side note: I now know where John Mayall’s “Room To Move” got it’s groove from.

Elmore James – One Way Out

 

Sonny Boy Williamson II – One Way Out

 

Sonny Boy Williamson II – One Way Out (Version Two)

 

Here’s a interesting little digression: One Way Out played by blues guitar great Mike Bloomfield, along with with Al Kooper, at the Fillmore East sometime in 1968. This version sounds like a thrown together jam arrangement with it’s straight eighth note rock bass line defining the groove. What makes it killer is Bloomfield’s spectacular guitar playing.

MIKE BLOOMFIELD – One Way Out (live at the Fillmore East 1968)

 

I have written previously of the Allman Brothers attention to song arrangement being one the things that made them the best blues band ever (IMHO) (see https://roymusicusa.com/2014/06/24/okay-the-allman-brothers-band/) and their version of One Way Out is a great example. Guitarist Dickey Betts starts with a variation of the Sonny Boy Williamson riff (second version). He is then joined by the rest of the band with Duane Allman’s slide guitar riff on top of Dickey’s part. It’s interesting to note while Dickey’s guitar riff changes with the tune’s chord progression, Duane’s part does not, providing shifting harmony to the main riff as the tune progresses.  Also note the change in the rhythm section from the tight riff under the vocal verses to the more open ended feel during the guitar solos. After Betts’ guitar solo, Duane Allman and Betts trade guitar licks over just the drums before the full band re-enters going into Duane Allman’s slide solo. The “Eat A Peach version of One Way Out is infamous for having a flub where bassist Berry Oakley comes in a beat early after the guitar trade, but the band quickly recovers. Greg Allman comes back with the last vocal verse (with the band returning to the backing riff) before the band drops out for Gregg’s acappella vocal tag and the band’s big ending on a traditional blues turnaround. The audio version in the video below is not the one featured on “Eat A Peach”. Rather, it’s one of Duane Allman’s last performances, from State University of New York at Stony Brook, September 19, 1971. I wanted to highlight this version for two reasons: 1 –  Berry Oakley does not fuck up and come in a beat early and 2 – Dickey Betts is just killing it here.  From his playing the opening riff to his solo to his trading riffs with Duane in the transition, he is playing like a man possessed.

The Allman Brothers Band  – One Way Out – SUNY-Stonybrook, 1971-09-19

 

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Posted in Blues, Classic Rock, Music Appreciation and Analysis

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