The dirty blond hair is the same, the body posture is also the same, and there are touches in the voice that
have a similar genetic connection, but Devon Allman has toiled long and hard to establish his own musical
identity, separate from his legendary dad, Gregg Allman.
In fact, Allman, who was raised by his mom (Shelley, not Cher) in Texas, took up the guitar on his own, and
did not meet his father until he was 16 years old. “I was 16, and I sent him a really short letter saying, ‘Hey,
it’s me. Here’s where I’m at. I’m playing guitar.” I got a phone call three days later,” says Devon. Soon after
that phone call, the two met in the parking lot at The Fox Theater in St. Louis during a tour stop for the elder
Growing up with his mom, Devon was listening to anything on the radio he could find. Often it was the
Rolling Stones or Jimi Hendrix. “I can remember listening to music at the age of four or five. Something
would come on the radio and I would always ask my mom who it was. She would say ‘That’s John Lennon’
or ‘that’s Styx.’ One time “Midnight Rider” came on, and I asked her ‘Mom who’s that?’ and she said
‘That’s your dad.’”
This young Allman did not come on the music scene riding the coattails of a famous parent. Allman has been
living his own musical life for decades. After playing in local bands and working in Guitar Center in St.
Louis, Allman formed Honeytribe in 1999. One part blues, one part rock, and one part jam, Honeytribe was
named the 1999 Jam Band of the Year in St. Louis.
Devon and Honeytribe toured for two years then took a break for a few years allowing Devon to actively
parent his son to later reform in 2005. At the same time, he toured in Europe with Javier Vargas, a Spanish
blues rocker. Devon and Honeytribe continued to tour in support of his 2010 release Space Age Blues.
Then, in 2011, his musical fate changed.
Royal Southern Brotherhood was formed during JazzFest in New Orleans. This unique quintet combines the
vocal and musical talents of Devon, Mike Zito, and the legendary Cyril Neville with the veteran rhythm
section of Charlie Wooton and Yonrico Scott. Their debut self-titled release in 2012 caught fire the moment
it hit the streets simultaneously catapulting them as major new attraction on the music scene. Their mixed
sounds of funk, blues, rock and jazz proved to be a force to be reckoned with. RSB tours non-stop
performing all over the world, including Australia, at festivals and various venues. As Devon quips,
“wherever there is electricity and potato chips.” Their second studio release, heartsoulblood, was released in
June 2014 to another round of rave reviews.
But probably the crowning moment of the band’s career thus far, was this past May, in Memphis, TN, where
they picked up a Blues Award for their live DVD/CD, Songs From The Road.
After touring the world as a fiery guitarist and soulful vocalist in Royal Southern Brotherhood, Devon is still
committed to performing dates with his own band, with a renewed intensity.
His own 2013 Ruf Records debut, Turquoise, came a few months after the RSB’s debut, giving him a slew
of accolades from USA Today, calling it, “…well-crafted, more reflective than fiery, and soulful.“, to Relix
proclaiming him as such, ” He’s an elegant, soulful singer.“
And as he told Billboard magazine, Devon predicted, “…this one’s going to be really heavy on guitar and
come out and punch you in the teeth.”
A little more than a year later, Ragged & Dirty is Devon’s ticket to the big show. “I have to say that playing
with Royal took my career to a new level. It’s given me more confidence and a new found love for the
music. I’m delighted that there’s a new shot of fire in my music.”
One can never leave a name as famous as “Allman” very far behind. There are traces of his father in his
soulful voice and his uncle Duane in his innovative guitar playing. According to Devon, the name both helps
and hurts. There will always be fans that come to see him out of curiosity, “But they leave having a respect
for the fact that I am my own entity.
“The hurt factor for me is to not get caught up thinking about the impact that my dad and uncle (Duane) had
on this genre of music. That could make me go completely insane. I can’t dwell on that. Focusing on that
interferes with path and my art. I still want it to be essentially feel-based. The best thing for me to do is to
concentrate on being the best musician I can be regardless of who my family is.”
Thus as one Allman institution (The Allman Brothers Band) has “retired,” Devon Allman is poised to grow
his family’s musical legacy.
For Ragged & Dirty, Devon left his southern comfort zone, hired a crack Chicago band, and enlisted the
producing and writing talents of Grammy winning producer Tom Hambridge (Buddy Guy, George
Thorogood, Johnny Winter, James Cotton, and Joe Louis Walker).
“I’ve done all my records in the south. I decided it was time to go to the electric blues mecca (Chicago), tap
into that vibe and surround myself with cats who live and breathe it. Besides producing, Tom custom wrote
some songs for this record that really aligned with my path.”
Though Hambridge wrote four tunes and Devon picked three to cover, it’s his original tunes that speak to his
artistic journey. “RSB has been such a deep, rich, globe-trotting experience that it definitely changes your
life and gives you new perspective. Anytime you’re involved in something to that degree, it will show up in
your art. I think the experience has given me more depth as a writer. I’m more willing to let the groove take
over and not force things vocally.”
To hear how a groove takes over, check out the spontaneity of his “Midnight Lake Michigan.” Devon’s dark
and ominous guitar howls push the nine-minute instrumental with a hoodoo aura. As the tension builds, the
song adds Marty Sammon’s keyboards and Tom Hambridge’s percussion in a swirl of primal rhythms.
To hear Devon’s vocal range, listen to the CD closer, “Leave The City.” With only Hambridge keepin’ the
sparse beat, Devon strips down and shows off his pleading, Allman-esque voice and stirring resonator guitar
in this move to country blues simplicity.
“I can handle echoes. People say they hear echoes of my dad’s soul in my voice, but that I have a definitive
sound. My dad says I remind him of Duane, although I’ve never played slide in my life.”
But there is so much more to this record amid those genetic touches. Luther Allison’s “Ragged & Dirty” is a
funk meets blues that provides Devon’s hot-shot Chicago studio band of bassist Felton Crews (Charlie
Musselwhite and others), guitarist Giles Corey (Billy Branch), and keyboard ace Marty Sammon (Buddy
Guy) along with Nashville’s Hambridge on drums room to show-off. Allman’s “Leavin’” provides the band
the opportunity to play with a subdued delicacy, while “Back To You” builds from Devon’s expressive solo
over Sammon’s B-3 foundation into a blistering slow blues ballad. There’s an expressive side to Devon as he
and Wendy Moten handle the Spinner’s classic “I’ll Be Around.” And Devon’s cover of Otis Taylor’s
haunting “Ten Million Slaves” commands our attention to bear witness to our historic injustices.
“Whether that seeking is for truth, love, inclusion, acceptance, or peace, we all have a soul that’s longing for
something. Longing colors our arts in a myriad of shades. The main thing is now that I really trust my vision
for songs. I go with my gut instantly. The focus now is to always get to the essence of the song and the story
it’s trying to convey in the simplest way possible.”