By Anna Chandler/ConnectSavannan
AS THE son of Gregg Allman, Devon Allman has Southern Rock coursing in his blood. Despite the gift of a musical lineage, the 44-year-old guitarist, vocalist, and keyboardist has created his own kingdom of blues-fueled rock ‘n’ roll.
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It’s been a wild 20 years for Allman. In addition to a colorful solo career, the musician led acclaimed blues rock band Honeytribe and rounded out the stellar and soulful Royal Southern Brotherhood, a supergroup featuring the likes of Cyril Neville, Bart Walker, Yonirco Scott (Derek Trucks Band), and Charlie Wooton.
Allman’s played rock, jam, and all manner of styles, but the electrifying performer always finds his way back to his blues roots. He and his band hit the Tybee Post Theater to share tunes from Allman’s latest solo effort, Ride or Die.
Featuring Ron Holloway on saxophone, Bobby Yang on strings, Kevin McKendree, Tyler Stokes on guitars, Steve Duerst on bass, and co-producer Tom Hambridge on drums, Allman has recorded a true blues rock LP with a modern pulse and moments that can be both tender and tough, fiery and coolly smooth.
Always one to throw a surprise or two in there, Allman’s cover of The Cure’s “A Night Like This” closes out the release with bright synths and a swampy groove.
We talked with Allman about finding the right players for a record, maintaining a loose songwriting schedule, and his late transformation into a killer lead guitar player.
You’ll be in town with a new album. What was it like writing the songs on Ride or Die?
Really, I gotta say, I did most of it last-minute! There’s a lot of writers out there who get up every day and write a little bit. I need to live some life, go six months not writing anything, then write five songs in one day. This one was like a big burst right before going into the studio. I got lucky. I get really scared that I have a deadline!
What inspired you lyrically and thematically?
Always with me, lyrically I’m inspired by what I see, what I experience. It’s life, it’s love, it’s pain. We all go through our daily thing and somehow it finds its way into the way I play.
Do you bring in new players for different albums on your studio recordings?
I change it up every record. I think the last five albums have a different band every time. It keeps it fresh. And it’s different in the studio; I choose to have a different live band. In-studio, you’re just trying to nail takes. I’ve been really lucky to work with [drummer/co-producer] Tom Hambridge.
What when you sought out new players for this album?
I wasn’t necessarily looking for a different style…just guys that I knew would really feel it for this genre. When I go make a record, we just kind of corral who we can get. Sometimes, it’s really storied musicians from Chicago or Nashville or Memphis. Some are my friends. So we just kind of put it together.
You’ve tried out various styles and genres through the years. What is it about blues rock that feels inherently natural to you?
I think everything inherently goes back to blues, whether it’s soul, rock, or jam band music. Everything finds its way home to the blues; it’s a very natural genre for me.
Do you feel your guitar style has changed over your career?
I hope so! You really just hope that every year, you get a little bit better at expressing yourself. I never set out to be a lead guitar player. I was always rhythm. I started playing lead late in life, and I’m still pretty petrified when it comes to lead guitar — there are some really amazing players out there. The one thing I think I have going for me is an identity: I have three licks, but you’re going to know it’s me.
What led you to transition from rhythm to lead?
My lead guitar player quit! [Laughs.] I said, ‘Alright, so I can replace him or I can try to get better. I was always a singer and rhythm guitar player, but at that point, I did one or two leads in the show—they were during ballads and were really slow. So when he left, I had a choice, and I decided to do it. it really became a passion.
How’d you build up your skill set?
Oh my God, I went back into completely woodshed mode, playing eight hours a day, playing to Hendrix, Santana, Robert Randolph, eight hours a day for three months. I gave myself a six-month window, and at the end of six months, if I did okay, then I’ll keep going. And if I didn’t, I have to be honest with myself and just hire a lead guitar player. Two months in, I had a really amazing night where everything worked, and I’ve been playing lead ever since.
For folks who haven’t seen you and your band live before, what can they expect?
It’s a really high-energy show. We do not let the crowd sleep! It’s a lot of fun, really, it’s a journey through my career. You’re going to hear some Honeytribe, Royal Southern Brotherhood, solo material, cool covers, instrumentals. It’s a lot of fun.