Gregg Allman has toured plenty under the billing Gregg Allman and Friends, but the veteran artist believes the current lineup, which plays Asheville, N.C., tomorrow (Feb. 3), to be best incarnation of

Gregg Allman has toured plenty under the billing Gregg Allman and Friends, but the veteran artist believes the current lineup, which plays Asheville, N.C., tomorrow (Feb. 3), to be best incarnation of the group to date.

"It's similar to the last [our] but it's just a much better band," Allman tells Billboard.com. "We have some pretty tight arrangements and we do have some loose things too. It's just some real, real, real good musicians. I mean, top of the line -- and some of these guys I've always wanted to play with. It's really a kick."

Joining Allman on stage are Robben Ford (guitar), Willie Weeks (bass), Neil Larsen (keys), Steve Potts (drums), Floyd Miles (percussion), Jay Collins (horns), Chris Karlic (horns) and Jim Sealy (horns). Because Ford's California house was damaged by last month's heavy rains and mudslides, the band only had two days to rehearse.

"It's still kick ass, let me tell you," Allman says. "It's a really good
band."

As for his day job, the Allman Brothers Band has booked its annual March Madness run of eight live dates, beginning March 10 and running through March 19, at New York's Beacon Theatre.

Allman says the band is also scheduled to convene at his Georgia home later this winter to begin work on the follow-up to the 2003 Sanctuary release "Hittin' the Note," which included the Grammy-nominated best rock instrumental performance track "Instrumental Illness."

With a few untitled, work-in-progress songs already in the mix, Allman expects the band's line-up -- Butch Trucks (drums), Jaimoe (drums), Warren Haynes (vocals, lead/slide guitar), Derek Trucks (slide/lead guitar), Oteil Burbridge (bass) and Marc Quinones (percussion) -- to remain intact for the project, which has no release date at present.

Considering the Allmans now release albums on their own Peach imprint through Sanctuary, the writing and recording process has evolved considerably from the prying corporate eyes and ears of the past.

"You're not rushed like it was before," Allman says. "They, and I'm talking about the record companies, used to ride you about this record and it's not like that anymore. Compared to the old days with Sony, we absolutely do have our freedom."