Artist: Devon Allman
Album: Ride Or Die
Label: Ruf Records
Release Date: 09/16/2016
The last time we visited Devon Allman, for 2014’s Ragged and Dirty, this writer (admittedly biased toward the blues) felt Allman had taken a step forward with a more blues-heavy album featuring veteran Chicago blues players. Here, he has equally- perhaps more- talented sidemen. For example, Tom Hambridge plays drums and co-produces, Kevin McKendree bangs the keyboards and Ron Holloway blows sax. Yet this effort is much more eclectic, closer to Turquoise, his Ruf debut, wherein he explored a number of styles. It’s not that Allman is indecisive. He feels comfortable as a bluesman, a rocker, a soul man and even as an acoustic singer/songwriter. Here, like on that record, his songwriting takes precedence rather than jamming or long guitar solos. “This album is really about mixing all of my influences,” Allman says. “Soul, rock, blues, alternative and more. It’s about making an artistic statement, not about fitting into any category, I produced this album to be an eargasm of emotion… These songs are about pain, addiction, storms, lust, death and feeling sometimes that you’re utterly lost. But conversely, it’s about finding your place in the universe, rebirth, strength, redemption, vindication…”
Undoubtedly, Allman is growing as a songwriter. Five songs are really notable. “Find Ourselves” has a horn-driven soul vibe. “Vancouver” is a soft rock ballad with a catchy chorus and features Ron Holloway’s sax as does the aforementioned. “Live from the Heart” is bluesier and has a crisp guitar solo. “Butterfly Girl” is acoustic with a string section, and has a catchy hook (“If you try to hold her down, she’ll fly away”). “Lost,” a feature premiere track in some publications, also starts out with an acoustic guitar and despite the wah-wah solo, which usually bores me, does offer relatable lyrics. We all feel directionless and confused at times. Allman says, “”Lost” is a special song to me. It is one of those that just really wrote itself and is a pretty timeless, universal concept.”
Give Allman credit for exploring his artistry. Fortunately, he hasn’t taken the easy Southern rock route. His live shows keep improving too. You can see for yourself at The Pennsylvania Music Festival, October 28th-30th at Split Rock Lodge in Lake Harmony, PA.