My first introduction to the music of Devon Allman was a band called Honeytribe around a half decade ago, and while I hadn’t made the Allman connection yet (I know, I’m slow) I knew there was something absolutely special about this guy. Of course, I eventually found out about his rock royalty bloodlines and that made the story all the better since I’ve been a life long Allman Brothers fan. Then in 2011, he was part of forming the phenomenal supergroup, Royal Southern Brotherhood, and watching them rise up these last few years has been a blast.
On Devon’s 2013 album Turquoise, he gave us a taste of what he is capable of, and though he is his own man and his own musician, there is no mistaking where he got his talent from — at least genetically. What I like most about this incredible artist is that he did not use his “famous daddy’s name” to make it. What ever level of success he is achieving right now is because of a herculean work ethic and an inherent need to be his own man. When your dad is Gregg Allman that can be a pretty damn tough road to go down, but Devon has done that and more. He’s logged the miles, slept in tour vans and played the shows. He spent the time building his own fan base, and most of all, he is creating great music. His own great music.
This brings us to Allman’s latest offering, Ragged & Dirty, released on October 14. “Half the Truth” is the first song and it paves the way with an upbeat groove. Buddy Guy’s keyboard master Marty Sammon fills in here and there, right on time, every time. The next song, “Can’t Lose ‘Em All” dishes out a seriously funky groove that should make most lovers of the genre smile and shake a certain part of their body. Allman and Sammon play off each other extremely well during this number.
One of the highlight’s on Ragged & Dirty for me was Allman’s interpretation of the smash hit “I’ll Be Around” by legendary Motown group, The Spinners. On this song, Devon shows once again just how diverse and talented he is and his vocals are top-notch. He really trusted his voice on this track, opening up and singing with all the confidence in the world. It’s not too far removed from the original and that totally worked for me with him showing that he can tackle legendary tunes and own them.
Musical genius and Grammy winner Tom Hambridge (Buddy Guy, Johnny Winter, James Cotton, George Thorogood) was brought in to work his magic on Ragged & Dirty, and did he ever. He and Devon are a perfect fit, with Tom writing four of the songs and Devon making them his own, it’s a force to be reckoned with. Devon himself wrote five of the songs and the collection is rounded out with three covers selected by Allman.
Another standout track is the epic instrumental, “Midnight Lake Michigan” clocking in at a whopping nine and a half minutes of guitar bliss. Allman conjures up the ghosts of uncle Duane and Jimi and anyone else you want to toss in there. This is his track on the album that proves he can hold his own with any guitar player on the scene today. Long, sustained notes combined with a haunting melody and understated but tasty as hell drums….crashing into the organ work from Sammon, you have a recipe for a great song. Near the five minute mark, they hit the red-line, crescending beautifully and then walk it back down again, relying heavily on what can be only be described is a filthy jazz bassline to carry the load.
Front to back, this is as good an album as you’ll find and it is clearly the next rung up on the ladder for this talented musician. It’s a sure contender for album of the year and one look at the top of the blues charts right now and you’ll know that’s really saying something. We’d highly recommend adding this one to your collection.