Interview With Mike Ross

Guitarist Mike Ross talks to Folk and Tumble about his new Allman Brothers Band inspired album 'Peach Jam'.

FT:  You are about to release your new album, ‘Peach Jam’.  It’s an unabashed tribute to the work of The Allman Brothers Band.  What made you decide to do it and why now?
MR:  Well, I’ve been a devotee of that band since 1991 when I saw them play live in Manchester.  I was 16 at the time and it just absolutely blew me away – the intensity of the jamming, the tightness of the band, the transcendental energy that I felt emanating from them.  I bought the “Live at The Fillmore’ CD the next day and immediately got to work learning all of the guitar parts! (I still haven’t learned all of the guitar parts!).  So it’s always been at the back of my mind do do an instrumental record that referenced that kind of sound and the second lockdown last year gave me the time to do it.  I recorded the basic tracks in Brighton Electric studios then overdubbed the extra guitar parts etc. in my home studio (the Tonecan).

FT:  How much of an influence have The Allman Brothers been on your music?
MR:  I’d say that they’re more or less at the core of everything I’ve done really, acoustic or electric.  The way they approach their blues songs for example has been a massive influence on me – the arrangements and dynamics always seem to support the song as much as the guitar soloing (which isn’t something I hear a lot of elsewhere tbh!).  The jamming and extended improvisation is something I’ve always done live but it’s quite hard to capture on record to be honest.  The track ‘Unforgiven’ from The Clovis Limit Pt.2 is a definite nod to the ABB, that was the first time I ever went that deep into the twin guitar, jamming thing and it was seeing how well that was received by listeners that gave me the confidence to consider doing something longer in that kind of style. And so, the idea for a Peach Jam was born!

FT:  You’ve really embraced the spirit of The Allmans Brothers Band with the extended musical pieces ‘Peach Jam’ and ‘Galadriel’.  Are they pieces of music that came about naturally through jamming or had you been writing them for a while?
MR:  The idea for Peach Jam’ originally came out of that beginning 5/4 chord sequence which If found while messing about on my old Telecaster one night while the family were watching TV.  It rolls along really nicely but I couldn’t imagine singing over it so instead I just hummed the melody over the chords in a rough demo I made.  Then the idea to do a harmony part came to me which blossomed into the twin guitar approach that I’d so enjoyed doing on ‘Unforgiven’.  The ‘fusion-y’ second section is actually very similar in chord structure to Kind of Blue by Miles Davis (which in turn was a big influence on the ABB) so it felt pretty natural to shift up a gear into that for a while.  Then after a return to the head the feel bounces into a nice fast shuffle which lets me drop a few BB King/Peter Green licks in these before we ease it back a bit and get into the ‘Dickey Betts Florida Swamp’ bit.  The demo took a few months of work to come together actually.  I recorded all the different sections as separate parts at first, then I assembled them into the order you hear on the finished thing.  This was way before I played it to the band.  I left lots of room for improvised solos of course!


‘Galadrielle’ was something I wrote just after reading Galadrielle Allman’s book about the life of her father Duane.  I found it just incredibly moving and I was inspired to find an uplifting melody that would reflect how I felt about the story and about her search for memories of the father she never knew.  The first section is the only ‘written’ part and even then the solos are improvised after the initial melody.  After three times round the sequence sequence it breaks down and then the rest of the track was captured jamming live in the studio. I later dropped a backwards section of the head melody with some Moog synth, 12 string acoustic guitar and piano into the middle of it for a ‘dream sequence’ kind of vibe.  There’s actually a vocal melody for that section which I ended up leaving it out but if you listen you can almost hear the synth sing ‘And her name was Galadrielle’.  Then the reprise comes in, it’s just a rocking little bit of riffy guitar to take us home!

FT:  The only vocal track on the album is a cover of the Free classic ‘Don’t Say You Love me’.  Why did you choose that for the album?
MR:  Well, there’s always a bit of a doubt at the back of mind about the ‘authenticity’ of a white guy from the North East of England knocking out southern USA style jam rock! Then it occurred to me that one of my favourite ever singers was also a white guy from the North East of England knocking out southern USA style jam rock, namely Paul Rodgers of Free.  That man sounds more like Otis Redding than any other man alive and he’s from Middlesborough which is just down the road from where I grew up.  Otis was a Georgia homeboy and the Allmans were based in Macon, Georgia early in their career so the story just kind of wove itself together nicely.  And it’s a bloody brilliant song to boot, probably my favourite Free song and an absolute joy to sing.   Plus, Georgia is known as the ‘Peach State’ and the peach is the official state fruit.  There are no other references to Middlesborough in the recording tho!

FT:  I am particularly fond of the acoustic based tracks, ‘Grace’ and ‘Derek & Me’.  When I listen to ‘Derek & Me’ I get the image of you and your Father in my mind sitting on a porch sipping beers, playing music and swapping stories.  Did your Father enjoy the same music as you and was he an influence on your music?  
MR:  Ah, my poor old dad, God rest his soul.  He couldn’t play a note and never performed as a musician but he was an enthusiastic singer and he was always belting out old Stones songs or whatever around the house.  We never played or sang together but he had a great record collection and was really supportive of my music, particularly when I was a young lad.  He always gave me lifts around with my gear before I could drive and then once I got on the road myself, he spent years keeping my old clunker vans in running order!  He was a genuinely lovely man and when that sweet, old time-y melody on the slide guitar came to me one time it just seemed the perfect way to celebrate his life really.  Actually, I told a lie before, he could pick out the beginning bit of ‘Once in Royal David’s City’ on the piano and he taught me how to do it.  That’s actually the first piece of music I learned to play!  He sadly died in 2017 but I was so happy to release my ‘Jenny’s Place’ album on vinyl the year before and he was incredibly proud of it.  I was glad he got to see and hear that.  After he died my mum told me that he used to sit with a copy of the record in his hands, just looking at it for hours and hours with tears in his eyes.  Oh damn, I miss that man.

FT: You are back out gigging again.  How does it feel to be back in the saddle after the pandemic?
MR:  Incredible.  Such wonderful connections with the crowd, getting out to meet people and sing for them is always really rewarding but there’s an extra level of feeling at the moment that I very much hope doesn’t dissipate as we get back to a normal routine of gigs and whatnot!  There are a *lot* of bands out on the road at the moment tho, it’s pretty saturated so I’m taking a back seat for the rest of the year to complete work on my next record of original songs which should come out around Easter in 2023.

FT:  As always Mike, it’s good to catch up with you.  Good luck with the album and the tour.
MR:  And you Gerry, thanks so much for taking the time to talk to me!

‘Peach Jam’
is released on Taller Records on July 26th and can be pre-ordered now via