Tag: 2019

Tuesday 10pm: Feature LP: Allman Betts Band – Down To The River (2019)

As their name makes plain, the Allman Betts Band continues in the tradition of the Allman Brothers Band. Devon Allman and Duane Betts — the sons of Gregg Allman and Dickey Betts, respectively — formed the group in 2018 with the intent purpose of celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the foundation of the groundbreaking group of their fathers. By playing classic Allmans tunes, the Allman Betts Band kept the Southern rock torch burning in the 21st century, but Devon and Duane also made sure to write new material too, releasing their debut Down to the River in June 2019.

To form their group, Devon Allman and Dickey Betts recruited bassist Berry Oakley, Jr. — himself the son of original Allman bassist Berry Oakley — organist John Ginty, slide guitarist Johnny Stachlea, and percussionists John Lum and R. Scott Bryan. Working with producer Matt Ross-Spang, the band recorded the album that became Down to the River at Muscle Shoals Sound Studio in Alabama. The record appeared on June 28, just prior to the Allman Betts Band launching a summer tour.

Devon Allman and Duane Betts make no attempt to hide their lineage. The pair are the sons of Gregg Allman and Dickey Betts, two of the founding and defining members of the Allman Brothers Band, and they’ve named their band so it rhymes with the group of their famous fathers. More than that, their 2019 debut album Down to the River consciously evokes the sound of the Allman Brothers Band. The pair don’t attempt to expand the Southern-fried hybrid of blues, rock, soul, and country; at times, it feels like they’re spinning such classics as “Melissa” and “Ramblin’ Man” for their own purposes, alluding to these classics as a way to both nod at their audience and connect with them. Such direct acknowledgment of their roots can mean that the Allman Betts Band open themselves up to direct comparisons with their fathers, but decoding Down to the River as a series of references and influences misses the intent of the duo. Allman and Betts are intentionally following in their footsteps of their fathers, so they’ve chosen to work with a limited palette, one that cherry-picks the best moments of the past. If Down to the River isn’t as adventurous or hungry or exploratory as any Allman Brothers Band album, there’s nevertheless a deliberately cultivated warmth that’s designed to appeal to Allman fans-and, given a shot, Down to the River may well appeal to that audience.

AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine

1 All Night 04:44
2 Shinin’ 04:29
3 Try 02:54
4 Down to the River 04:43
5 Autumn Breeze 08:42
6 Good ol’ Days 03:38
7 Melodies Are Memories 04:04
8 Southern Accents 04:32
9 Long Gone 06:32

Thursday 10pm: Feature LP: Steve Earle & the Dukes – Guy (2019)

AllMusic Review by Mark Deming

While he found his fame in Nashville, Steve Earle was born in Texas, and he cut his teeth as a songwriter in the ’70s while hovering on the outskirts of the Lone Star State’s circle of great tunesmiths. The literate but unpretentious approach of the Texas songwriting community clearly suited Earle, and he’s never been shy about acknowledging his influences from his early days. In 2009, Earle released the album Townes, in which he paid homage to his good friend and mentor Townes van Zandt, recording 15 of his best songs. Ten years later, Earle has offered a follow-up in the form of 2019’s Guy, a set of 16 songs from the songbook of his late friend Guy Clark. While Townes was primarily a solo effort, Guy was cut with Earle’s band the Dukes, and the difference speaks to the temperment of the two albums. Van Zandt’s songs were often powerfully introspective, and he was often given to a dark night of the soul. Clark, on the other hand, was no less pithy but considerably warmer, and there’s a playful humanity in his songs that Van Zandt’s usually lacked, as great as they were. This also explains why Townes is ultimately a more satisfying album than Guy — while Earle can be powerfully witty when he wants to be, he’s traditionally drawn to darkness more than light, and while it’s clear he loves songs like “L.A. Freeway,” “Rita Ballou,” and “Heartbroke,” the easygoing amiability and small-town wisdom of Clark’s lyrics feel a bit off coming from Earle’s increasingly craggy rasp. And though the grainy tone of Earle’s voice works on the rocked-up cover of “Out in the Parking Lot” and the twangy two-step of “Texas 1947,” and his phrasing is as canny as ever, it doesn’t work as well on more thoughtful numbers like “Desperados Waiting for a Train” and “The Randall Knife.” (This album recycles a version of “The Last Gunfighter Ballad” from a 2001 Guy Clark tribute album, and its presence points to the considerable wear on Earle’s voice in the 18 years that separate it from the rest of the album.) There’s never a moment where Steve Earle sounds anything less than fully committed on Guy, and this was clearly a labor of love, particularly on the closing number “Old Friends,” where Emmylou Harris, Jerry Jeff Walker, Rodney Crowell, and Terry Allen join in. But the execution isn’t quite as strong as Earle’s good intentions on Guy, though if he wanted to either remind old fans on the greatness of Clark’s songs or convince new ones to explore his body of work, he makes his case will eloquence and affection.

1 Dublin Blues 3:48
2 L.A. Freeway 4:06
3 Texas 1947 3:14
4 Desperados Waiting for a Train 4:34
5 Rita Ballou 3:12
6 The Ballad of Laverne and Captain Flint 4:05
7 The Randall Knife 4:00
8 Anyhow I Love You 3:06
9 That Old Time Feeling 5:02
10 Heartbroke 2:44
11 The Last Gunfighter BalladS 3:21
12 Out in the Parking Lot 2:39
13 She Ain’t Going Nowhere 3:49
14 Sis Draper 3:27
15 New Cut Road 4:10
16 Old Friends 4:56