On Monday 3rd September we saw The DEVON ALLMAN PROJECT with special guest DUANNE BETTS (son of Dickey — former member of Dawes and Great Southern) at the premier venue in the heart of the Black Country — at Robin 2 Bilston.
After 15 years of sharing stages with some of the most stupendous names in the business and learning the ropes from all the greats, Duane Betts began his solo journey earlier this year with his “Sketches of American Music” E.P. — a superior jaunt into country blues and scorching Americana that pays an exceptional tribute to his rock-and-roll dad Dickey Betts and enlists the directional talents of Stoll Vaughan (co-songwriting) and with veterans Steve Cropper (Booker T. & the M.G.’s) and Marc Ford (Black Crowes) for production.
At Bilston, Duane’s songs like “Downtown Runaround” had traditional vintage-rock riffs and vocals that were conveyed in a nasal but efficient way.
“Taking Time” had a Steve Earle vibe and even more of that pleasant Dylanesque voice. “Ride It Out” was majestic and cool. And the speed and skilfulness on “Hot ‘Lanta” — with incredible keys from Nicholas David was genuinely awesome.
Devon Allman came to stage after a very quick change-around and brought his own magic and supernatural energy to the Robin 2 — although he shared his cousin’s band of musicians (or it should be the other way around)… Probably one of the highlights of his half of the show (and there were many) was the slow, percolating chug of the Royal Southern Brotherhood song “Left My Heart in Memphis” — with Allman providing his assured, yet sour, voice of velvety whiskey over amber-gold guitar-work. This was lustrous and beauteous.
We also loved the cover of the Spinners “I’ll Be Around” with sun-tinged Lindsey Buckingham-style licks. Although we thought that this number, with its emotional atmosphere of soft vibalicious rock, actually emulated the sound of Stevie Nick’s “Dreams”. It was a perfect piece of American rhythm & blues, full of soul and groove.
Jazzy instrumentals such as “In Memory of Elizabeth Reed” were dizzying and triumphant and gained ever-evolving layers of sound… produced elegantlly by up to eight musicians on stage at any one time… including the incredible Atlanta bass-man Justin Corgan and neat and determined guitar-worker Johnny Stachela.
Generously, Devon allowed Duane to take the place of honor for most of the second half and even left the stage for two full songs. When Allman appeared again, walking through the crowd, with a guitar in his hand, it was a truly mystical moment. The fans were eager to touch Allman’s shoulder as if they needed to feel the allegorical power of pedigree.
This was a concert of silver bullets and coyote yelps … of guitars that sung like eagles and memories that matured like soapapples on the Hell ‘n Blazes. This was a concert of shared evocations… of golden times once spent with dear friends and never, ever underestimated and, of course… never truly forgotten.
Words & pictures @neilmach 2018 ©