When The Allman Brothers Band gave Dickey Betts his notice – famously, by fax- in the summer of 2000, the context surrounding the ouster was clouded with intimations of substance abuse and subsequent poor performance. Betts vehemently and publicly denied both at the time. In a way, this Official Bootleg Volume 1 is his musical response- a two-disc set drawn largely from shows in the era immediately following his acrimonious dismissal- and let’s just say, Betts makes a lock-tight case for an acquittal of all charges.
His accompanying band, billed as Great Southern, is really, aside from guitarist Dangerous Dan Toler, an entirely new ensemble from the GS band that backed Betts back in the late ‘70s. Toler, alone, though, is rocket fuel for Betts. Their compatibility is the broken-in, trusted kind that pushes and supports; competes and complements; instigates and celebrates. A steady stream of Betts’ best, old and new, enlivened by their twin-guitar interplay threatening to burn a hole in the speakers, is maybe never hotter than on “In Memory of Elizabeth Reed” or “Back Where It All Begins,” the latter featuring some re-worked lyrics from the Allman Bros. recorded original. Add in the female voice of Twinkle, recalling collaborations with Bonnie Bramblett two decades earlier, and Betts has more than enough motivation, singing and playing, to refute any notion that he isn’t more than worthy of his place center stage.
There are slight differences in fidelity between a few of the songs as some were simply recorded better than others. And, though most are previously unreleased, a handful of the 15 were issued as part of Betts’ Instant Live series available after their performances at the time. One thing does remain constant throughout: Betts’ and Toler’s combustible guitars way up in the mix and wailing. For that, alone, this Official Bootleg is an official must-have.