(Mike Hyland | Sun Music Writer) It only took him 20 years of toughing it out, playing and singing around the country in station wagons, vans and beat up buses, but with the release of “Turquoise,” his first solo album, Devon Allman has arrived, and I don’t think it will be too long before he starts headlining his own shows.
The eldest of Gregg Allman’s five children, Devon Allman, at 40, has truly come of age as a musician, a songwriter and a performer. “Turquoise” tells his story that started two decades ago when he left home to become a rock star. The album delves into relationships he has had, gigs he’s played, as well as his escapes to get away from it all. It is a well crafted album with full blown rock and roll slide guitar on “When I Left Home” played by Luther Dickinson, sultry Marvin Gaye-like music and lyrics on “Strategy,” and all kinds of twists and turns that you never see coming on “Key Lime Pie.”
“There’s No Time,” co-written by Allman and guitarist Tyler Stokes, features a stinging solo by Stokes. Latin and African rhythms ooze throughout the tune that is capped by a strong vocal performance. When he finds time later this year, Allman will be producing an album with Stokes, whom he refers to as a little brother.
Over the years, it has not been an easy road for Allman the younger. Any kid whose dad is a big rock star has a tough go of it, constantly having to prove himself over and over while trying to find his own unique road. I believe he has finally found his way. His new record coupled with the release last year of the Royal Southern Brotherhood album that turned out to be a sleeper hit, resting for months on the Billboard Blues chart, is creating a pretty hefty buzz around Devon, and deservedly so.
Devon wrote seven songs, co-wrote three and covers the Tom Petty/Stevie Nicks hit “Stop Dragging My Heart Around,” which turns out to be my only beef with this disc. I get it that Devon is a Tom Petty fan. He even name checks Petty in the song “Don’t Set Me Free,” where he writes “It’s fourth quarter and you’ve got the lead. You took my pride, you took my heart, you took my Tom Petty records, and I’m on my knees.” But if you cover a pretty big pop hit, you really gotta do it better than the original, and I can’t say that he accomplished it here. His vocal partner on the song, Samantha Fish, doesn’t share his passion of the song at all. That being said, if the cover tune were not present, there would still be 10 songs, each of which is a musical highlight in itself.
One of the most haunting songs is a simple melody Allman wrote for his wife Yadira entitled simply, “Yadira’s Lullaby.” It is somewhat reminiscent of “Little Martha,” the acoustic duet played by Duane Allman and Dickey Betts at the close of the 1972 “Eat A Peach” album. Devon Allman performs the song on a three string cigar-box guitar. It is simplistic but also very beautiful.
“These songs are very special to me,” says Allman in a prepared release. “It’s part ‘dusty road driving music’ and part ‘tropical getaway’ music. These are the stories, feelings and reflections from my last couple of decades of forging my musical path.”
Devon joins a growing number of musicians who are the second generation of Allman Brothers Band founders Gregg Allman, Dickey Betts, Berry Oakley and Butch Trucks. Allman has three sons and two daughters, several of whom are pursuing music careers. Duane Betts and Berry Duane Oakley are the respective sons of guitarist Dickey Betts and bassist Berry Oakley. Both front bands in southern Florida and occasionally jam together. Drummer Butch Trucks’ nephew is Derek Trucks, who is currently a member of the Allman Brothers Band as well as the Tedeschi Trucks Band with his wife Susan Tedeschi . They don’t fall far from the tree.
Currently based in St. Louis, Devon Allman was born in Corpus Christi, Texas where he grew up surrounded by a humble life along with his mother Shelly. His first love of music came at a pretty early age, which eventually became a spiritual calling that would not stop. It wasn’t long before he and his guitar joined bands, and in 1999 Devon formed a Southern rock jam band called Honeytribe. While his breakthrough into the music industry may have been blunted by his choice not to use his famous surname, it served the purpose of his having to avoid the burden of the barrage of questions about his famous father that even he was unsure of how to answer.
It was when Honeytribe began to release CDs and tour nationally that interviews slowly began to seep out that Devon was the son of one of the biggest names in music, Gregg Allman. Over the years, Devon has joined his illustrious dad as a special guest during The Allman Brothers Band’s legendary series of shows at the Beacon Theatre in New York City. The band will be setting up residence at the Beacon again in just a few weeks and I am told Devon will be in New York during that time, so I can only believe that Devon will once again take the stage with his dad and band that will certainly help to make his solo album just a little more well known.
Allman is pretty much a road warrior these days splitting time with his own band and the Royal Southern Brotherhood. The Brotherhood is headed to Australia to play several dates with Allman returning to the States to play larger venues while promoting the new album. You can expect to hear a lot from young Mr. Allman in the coming months and years.