While not enough music lovers have been paying attention, Gregg Allman’s baby boy has been steadily carving out quite a niche for himself. Since 1999, Devon Allman has worked with his own band, Honeytribe, the supergroup Royal Southern Brotherhood, and issued his first solo album, Turquoise (2013). A short year later, Allman has gone Ragged and Dirty in his second solo outing, and it’s easily a collection that should seriously widen his appeal for blues, blues rock, and straight-up rock fans.
While most of his previous material was recorded in the American South, Allman went to Chicago to lay down Ragged and Dirty with producer, songwriter, and drummer Tom Hambridge. But don’t expect a collection of updated Chicago blues numbers. Instead, Ragged and Dirty is an infectious assortment of songs that really rock out with Allman drawing from a variety of musical wells.
For example, it’s blues rock time with “Times Have Changed,” as is the title song where Allman kicks out the jams with his wah-wah pedal to prove just how ragged and dirty he can get. For lack of a better label, “Leavin'” might be considered a hybrid of folk and soul. Allman’s remake of The Spinners’ “I’ll Be Around”, however, is pure ’70s R&B. Touching another base, “Leave the City” builds on Allman’s acoustic guitar with something of a Springsteen feel.
Some songs sound very personal, as in “Travelin’,” another tune in the tradition of musicians musing over their lives while collecting frequent flier miles. In a similar vein, “Back to You” is more gritty blues about a man wanting to come home. But, like material the Royal Southern Brotherhood is becoming known for, Allman also comments on the world he sees. The tom tom-driven “Ten Million Slaves,” for example, is about the history of Africans coming to America in shackles. The crunching “Blackjack Heartattack” cautions about the addiction of gambling.
Lest you fear the out-and-out blues isn’t represented, the nine-minute “Midnight Lake Michigan” is an instrumental guitar workout that might inspire some listeners to think of many better known guitar gods, and Allman should be favorably compared to any axeman you care to mention. (That includes Devon’s famous uncle.) But Allman is no slouch delivering his soulful, gravelly lead vocals, and credit should go to Hambridge for his mic-ing, providing Allman with a variety of shadings and depth.
Coming in October, just five months after Royal Southern Brotherhood’s Heartsoulblood, Ragged and Dirty is a hard-charging release listeners will want to play more than once. Despite the publicity emphasizing blues connections, this isn’t an album limited to fans of that genre. Rockers, take heed! Devon Allman is offering music you’ll want to crank up and share. The way things are going, in time Devon won’t be billed as Gregg Allman’s son, but rather Gregg will become known as Devon Allman’s dad.
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