Today’s Cool Album of the Day (#846 in the Series) is Devon Allman, Turquoise
The first thing that hits you between the ears with a critical listen to “When I Left Home,” the opening track of Devon Allman’s fine new album Turquoise, a song that takes you through an autobiographical narrative that touches only sparingly on his rock royalty pedigree as the son of Gregg Allman and the Nephew of the late Duane Allman, is that Devon‘s musical path was not a gold and glitter strewn road that was pre-paved for success, but rather an ongoing journey that may have blessed him with some heavy-duty pixie dusting of artistic genes, but certainly did not come with a GPS to tell him how to get to the pot of career gold that might be waiting for him at the end of the rainbow. Only some heavy road-dog dues paying along with staying true to one’s own personal muse would do that. The song sounds lyrically like it could have been written by his father, but the slide guitar work courtesy of North Mississippi All-Star Luther Dickinson sounds eerily like “Loan Me a Dime” era Duane Allman, and everything fits together quite nicely.
Turquoise represents a stepping out of sorts, following his band on the run, gig a night early days with Devon Allman’s Honeytribe where they were superstars on the local scene but did not get a lot of national airplay, and last year’s Royal Southern Brotherhood record, a sort of Southern Rock super group album that also featured Cyril Neville, elder statesman of the Neville Brothers and vocalist for The Meters. The blueprint for that musical gumbo of an album that stirs Southern Rock, Cajun Soul, Blues, Tex Mex, and good old Rock & Roll into a delicious mix seems to be the one that Allman has adopted on this new release, the first truly solo album of his career.
Vocally, Devon has a gritty Marlboro Red type baritone that tends to grow on you with subsequent listens, and if you are listening to the album in sequence, right about the time you discover he sounds a bit like Tom Petty, you are treated to a truly bad-ass version of “Stop Dragging My Heart Around,” a track that stays pretty close to the best known version at the beginning, but wanders a bit into a subtly delicious direction with Blues woman Samantha Fish doing her best Stevie Nicks impersonation only much cooler, and the always welcome Hammond B-3 makes a guest appearance as well. The song is the only cover on the album, and plays very well sequenced in the cleanup fourth spot in pretty much the perfect line-up position.
Produced by Jim Gaines who has done some knob twirling for Santana, Huey Lewis and the News, The Radiators among others, he seems to be moving Allman and the band into a more genre diverse, less jam band, and more concise direction than either The Allman Brothers or Honeytribe, and this is a very good thing. The Spanish influenced “There’s No Time” could be the sister song to “She’s Not There,” and would have been a key cut on any of the more recent Santana albums.
Minus a couple of cuts, most notably the instrumental, “Yadira’s Lullaby”, this is a very strong album. Devon Allman seems to have the formula down. Start with some solid songwriting along with a strong comfort sounding vocal delivery, add a couple of top notch guest musicians, throw in a cool cover song and let her rip.
I am supremely confident that based on this solo effort, the song writing will get a bit better, “Key Lime Pie” is a lovely song but may sound better on a Jimmy Buffett album, A Black Key may be brought on board to energize the tracks a bit more, and if an instrumental song is to be added something in the “No Way Out” style might do the trick.
In the end though, this is Devon Allman’s album, on his own terms, and is a very successful dive into the solo album pool. The judges throw up an 8 on this one, and even the Russian judge was impressed.
I’m calling my shot on this one early. His sophomore release will be on most of the year end lists for the best album of 2014. Mark my words.
– Walt Falconer, Houston Texas, USA
- “When I Left Home” 4:05
- “Don’t Set Me Free” 3:40
- “Time Machine” 3:39
- “Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around” 4:46
- “There’s No Time” 4:58
- “Strategy” 4:12
- “Homesick” 3:32
- “Into the Darkness” 3:24
- “Key Lime Pie” 3:04
- “Yadira’s Lullaby” 2:25
- “Turn Off the World” 4:07
- Devon Allman – vocals and guitars
- Yonrico Scott – drums and percussion
- Myles Weeks – electric bass and upright bass
- Luther Dickinson – lead and slide guitars
- Samantha Fish – vocals
- Ron Holloway – saxophone
- Bobby Schneck Jr. – lead guitar
- Rick Steff – Hammond B3
- Pete Matthews, Rueben Williams, Samantha Fish, Adam Hill – background vocals