Little Steven’s “Soul-Meets-Rock Thing” Comes Alive

The man with the bandana and his Disciples of Soul play historic theater in Staten Island, N.Y.

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Steven Van Zandt had not been on my radar screen as a solo artist until recently. Things changed in May when he released Soulfire, his first solo album since 1999. It quickly became one of my favorite new records this year, which I previously reviewed here. When I found out he was kicking off a tour at the Count Basie Theatre in Red Bank, N.J., that show in late May – his only scheduled U.S. gig at the time – was already sold out! So I was glad that after a European leg, he brought the tour back to the U.S. Last Thursday, I was able to see his great show at the St. George Theatre in Staten Island, N.Y.

Unlike the Count Basie Theatre, the venue wasn’t sold out; in fact, I would say only half of the seats were taken, which was unfortunate. But it didn’t seem to have an impact. Little Steven and his top-notch band The Disciples of Soul delivered a powerful performance that lasted for close to two and a half hours. And while the audience wasn’t the biggest, people certainly were engaged.

The show kicked off with the soul classic Sweet Soul Music. Written by Arthur Conley and Otis Redding, the tune was first released by Conley in 1967. This was followed right away by Soulfire, the title track from Van Zandt’s above mentioned latest album. In a Rolling Stone interview ahead of the record’s release, Van Zandt noted he co-wrote the song with a member of Danish rock and soul band The Breakers, which first released it on their eponymous album in June 2011. Here’s a clip of Soulfire captured in Leipzig, Germany back in June.

Tunes from almost the entire Soulfire album were sprinkled throughout the show, and I have to say those were the tracks I generally liked the most. One of the highlights of the record that was also a standout of the show was Blues Is My Business, a great cover of an Etta James tune included on her 2003 album Let’s Roll. Here’s a cool clip.

Another great song from Soulfire and highlight of the set was Down And Out In New York City. Written by Bobbie Chandler and Barry De Vorzon, the track was first recorded by James Brown for the soundtrack album of the 1973 blaxploitation crime drama Black Cesar. The performance showcased the band’s terrific five-piece horn section, with each musician playing solo back-to-back. Here’s a nice clip of the tune recorded at another gig earlier this month.

In addition to Soulfire, Little Steven also played songs from his earlier solo records with The Disciples of Soul, especially their debut Men Without Women (1982) and Voice Of America (1984). Among these tunes was Angel Eyes, written by Van Zandt and included on the 1982 record.

And then there was of course Van Zandt’s previous work with Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes. He was a co-founding member and produced various of their records. The set included three tunes from that band: I’m Coming Back and I Don’t Want To Go Home, two Van Zandt tunes that also appear on the Soulfire album, and Love On The Wrong Side Of Town, which he co-wrote with Bruce Springsteen. Here is a clip of I Don’t Want To Go Home, the title track of Southside Johnny’s 1976’s studio debut. It was part of the encore.

This post would not be complete without further acknowledging the musicians of The Disciples of Soul, a mighty 14-piece and truly amazing band. The line-up includes Marc Ribler (guitar), Charley Drayton  (drums), Everett Bradley (percussion, backing vocals), Lowell “Banana” Levinger (piano, mandolin), Andy Burton (organ, strings, accordion), Jak Daley (bass), Eddie Manion (baritone saxophone), Stan Harrison (tenor saxophone, flute), Clark Gayton (trombone), Ravi Best (trumpet), Ron Tooley (trumpet), and backing vocalists Jessica Wagner, Erika Jerry and YahZarah.

According to the tour schedule posted on Little Steven’s web site, the band will continue touring the U.S. throughout October. In early November, they are scheduled to return to Europe for another six weeks, with shows in England, Scotland, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Germany, Netherlands, Italy and Spain.

Sources: Wikipedia, setlist.fm, Rolling Stone, Little Steven’s website, YouTube

My First New Music On Vinyl In 30 Years

Today, I got my first new music on vinyl in 30 years. I couldn’t think of a better choice than Southern Blood, the final studio album by the great Gregg Allman, which was released on September 8. I previously reviewed it here. This post is all about capturing the cover art.

Gregg Allman Southern Blood Gatefold Cover Back
Gatefold cover backside
Gregg Allman Southern Blood Gatefold Cover Inside Left
Gatefold inside cover left side
Gregg Allman Southern Blood Gatefold Inside Cover Right
Gatefold inside cover right side
Gregg Allman Southern Blood Record Sleeve Front
Record sleeve front side

The actual vinyl record is colored in brown and looks it’s coming right out of a muddy swamp – pretty unique!

Gregg Allman Southern Blood Vinyl Record

Excerpt from the liner notes:

Gregg Allman cared deeply about his final album. He had very specific ideas about what he wanted to say and how he wanted to say it. He spent his final night listening to the latest mixes and closed his eyes for the last time knowing that his vision had been realized. Everyone involved in the making of this record hopes that it moves you and brings you great comfort in the years to come.

Viva Gregg!

Don Was (producer)

Another Weekend Brings Another Great Rock Festival to New Jersey

Colts Neck Rockfest 2017 featured close to 30 bands from the Garden State

To folks who know me and regular readers of the blog, it’s not a big revelation that I greatly enjoy going to music concerts. I’ve certainly been maximizing the live experience so far this year, especially with outdoor events over the summer, ranging from famous to not so famous artists. I must have seen more than 30 acts, and overall the quality has been pretty impressive. Most importantly, I had a great time, which is what music should be all about. And guess what? I’m still hungry for more!

The latest in a long series of outdoor events I visited happened yesterday: The Colts Neck Rockfest in Colts Neck, N.J. Until a few days ago, I had never heard of this annual music festival, even though the venue is fairly close to my house, and this was the 10th year they put it on. I found out about it through a Facebook post from Decade, a terrific Neil Young tribute band I first saw last weekend at Rock The Farm, announcing they would play Colts Neck Rockfest.

Colts Neck Rockfest 2017 Lineup

Unlike Rock The Farm, about which I previously posted here, the Colts Neck Rockfest focused less on tribute acts. Of the 28 bands that performed there Friday night and Saturday, only two fall into that category: Decade and Snow Dog, a tribute to Rush. Instead, most of the performers were cover bands, while the remaining acts mixed original material with covers.

Similar to Rock The Farm, there were relatively few people in the beginning. I suppose Saturday during the day, when many folks do their shopping and run other errands, is a tough proposition. When I got to Colts Neck in the early afternoon, there were perhaps 20 people (not counting the musicians). One guy I spotted right away was John Hathaway, the “Neil Young” from Decade.

Usually, I’m a bit reluctant to approach performers, figuring they may not necessarily like it, especially prior to a gig. But Decade’s performance wasn’t slated until much later in the afternoon, so I figured ‘what the heck.’ John turned out to be very nice guy. We ended up chatting for 15 minutes about his passion for Young, how long he has been doing this, his guitar, etc. I also exchanged a few words with the band’s great lead guitarist Joey Herr and learned his cool-looling Gibson SG is from ’71. It was a pleasant experience.

Like at Rock The Farm, the sets yesterday were very tight, so Decade once again didn’t have the time to switch to acoustic. But I learned they will do a much longer gig including an acoustic set at the end of October at The Stone Pony, a well-known music club in Asbury Park. That’s where artists like Bruce Springsteen and Southside Johnny started out. In fact, Southside Johnny and his Asbury Jukes played The Stone Pony in July. The city continues to be a stronghold in the local Jersey music scene.

Following I’d like to highlight four of the bands I saw yesterday, which I enjoyed in particular.

Sam Sims Band

The Sam Sims Band combines original music written by singer-songwriter Sam Sims with covers. I think their Facebook page nicely characterizes their style as “acoustic-based folk-rock with melodic guitar, soulful ukulele and authentic vocal lyrics.” According to the band’s website, Sims has been writing original songs since we was 14. The now 37-year-old, who plays ukele, guitar, dobro and harmonica, has released four studio albums and one single since 2009. Born in Huntsville, Ala., Sims currently resides in New Jersey. Other members of the band include Kyle Ward (guitar, backing vocals), Dimitris Kulaga (drums, percussion, backing vocals) and Aaron Manzo (bass, backing vocals).

The Sam Sims Band

To me the band’s set included two highlights: An incredible acoustic version of Dire Straits’ Sultans Of Swing, during which 21-year-old Ward absolutely killed it; and an original song, Positive Vibration. Apparently, Sims released this beautiful tune earlier this year as a single. Here’s a clip of the studio version.

Colossal Street Jam

Colossal Street Jam is a rock and blues band from Asbury Park, playing original music that reminds me a bit of The Black Crowes. According to Beato’s Blog, they initially started in the early ’90s and released two albums before they split in 1994. The band reunited in late 2013 and released its third album Living Free in October 2016. The current lineup of Colossal Street Jam consists of Gene Potts (vocals), Sal Marra (guitar, electric piano, vocals), Tony Flora (bass), Dave Halpern (drums, percussion) and Eric Safka (keyboards).

Colossal Street Jam

Since I didn’t know their music and they didn’t do much in terms of making announcements, I can only point to two songs they played yesterday. Both are from the Living Free album: Won’t Last This Way and Be Good To Yourself, a tune recorded by Scottish rock singer-songwriter Frankie Miller. Here’s a clip of Won’t Last This Way.

Xol Azul

Xol Azul is a Latin rock band that also hails from Asbury Park and was formed in 2002. They released an album of Spanish rock music in 2008 called Sale Et Xol. They also play covers in English and Spanish from other Latin artists like Santana and Mexican rock band Maná, as well as other bands. To this day, Xol Azul performs in its original lineup, which includes Gidalthi Guillen (bass, vocals), Gil Cruz (guitar), Fabian Rojas (keyboads) and Javier Medel (percussion).

Xol Azul

Yesterday’s set was a mix of English and Spanish tunes. Since I sadly know next to nothing about Spanish rock, predictably, the only songs I recognized were the English covers. Among others, those included Santana’s Evil Ways and Smooth, as well as Miss You by The Rolling Stones. Here’s a clip of a live performance of Evil Ways, one of my favorite early Santana tunes.

Moroccan Sheepherders

Moroccan Sheepherders is a very unique band, not only because of their peculiar name. They play classic rock jams and their own music. According to their Facebook page and website, the band’s origins date back to 1996, when Steve Warendorf (guitar) and Scott Burton (bass) met and shortly thereafter started making music with Craig Smith (drums) and Kyle Spendiff (percussion). The band’s website lists the following additional members: Herbi Freeman (vocals, percussion), Alan Manzo (vocals), Kendall Scott (keyboards), Adam Glenn (keyboards), Pat Murphy (vocals), Laura Johnson (vocals), Darren Johnson (vocals), Mike Sakowski (drums), Aaron Manzo (Bass) and Christopher Allen (saxophone). Apart from all of the aforementioned members, yesterday’s lineup included three additional horn players, making this act a true army of musicians.

Moroccan Shepherders

The band has released two albums with original music, Everybody Needs To Be Herd (2002) and Waves (2007). They describe this material as a mix of genres “ranging from tribal ambient trance to hard-core, blue-eyed blues-rock” – sounds pretty heavy to me. Last night was all about classic rock covers, which the band delivered with an incredible energy. Especially vocalist Laura Johnson was a standout to me. Some tunes of their great set included Won’t Get Fooled Again (The Who), Feelin’ Stronger Every Day (Chicago), The Wanton Song (Led Zeppelin), So Lonely (The Police), Sympathy For The Devil (The Rolling Stones) and L.A. Woman (The Doors). Here’s a nice clip of Feelin’ Stronger Every Day, which was captured at Colts Neck Rockfest 2015. 

In addition to being Moroccan Sheepherders’ guitarist, Warendorf is also the founder of Colts Neck Rockfest. “I had the idea to have a little free concert with a few musical acts at Bucks Mill Park in Colts Neck,” he told Community Magazine during a recent interview. “It was basically a backyard barbecue held at the park with about 30 people in attendance. It’s interesting to note that this was the Moroccan Sheepherders’ very first NJ cover music gig, as we were an original act from 1996 until then.” The annual event that started out in 2008 with only a handful of bands has grown into an impressive festival. Assuming there will be a Colts Neck Rockfest 2018, I could definitely see myself go back there next year.

Sources: Sam Sims Facebook page and website, Colossal Street Jam Facebook page and website, Beato’s Blog, Xol Azul Facebook page and website, Moroccan Sheepherders Facebook page and website, Community Magazine, YouTube

Clips & Pix: Paul McCartney & Bruce Springsteen/I Saw Her Standing Here

This great clip was captured Friday night at Madison Square Garden in New York, where Bruce Springsteen and Steven Van Zandt joined Paul McCartney on stage during the encore of McCartney’s sold out show there. These guys had so much fun that they literally did the song twice – priceless!

It doesn’t even matter that McCartney’s voice sounds a bit strained. According to setlist.fm, the back-to-back performances of I Saw Her Standing There were tracks 36 and 37, so it must have been well over two and a half hours into the show. Plus, the song that immediately preceded this was Helter Skelter. To me it is just amazing how strongly Sir Paul is still going at age 75. I saw it myself last July and posted about it here. This clip with The Boss makes me want to see him again – and while we’re at it, Springsteen as well!

Penned by McCartney and John Lennon, I Saw Her Standing There was the opener to Please Please Me, the studio debut by The Beatles, which appeared in March 1963. The tune was also released separately in the U.S. as the B-side to I Want To Hold Your Hand, the Fab Four’s first U.S. single that came out in December that year.

Sources: Wikipedia, Billboard, Setlist.fm, YouTube

Recreating Iconic Rock Festival That Never Was

Fourth Annual Rock the Farm brings 10 hours of rock & roll and tributes from Beatles to Young to Jersey Shore

In addition to seeing my rock & roll heroes live in action, I enjoy concerts featuring tribute bands to the music I love. While I wish I could go to shows of all the original acts, there are way too many music artists, not enough time and, let’s face it, not enough money – in particular nowadays with ticket prices oftentimes being out of control! To me tribute bands can be a great and very affordable way to address this conundrum. Yesterday, I got ten hours of exactly that, at the fourth annual Rock the Farm festival in Seaside Heights, N.J.

Also called Faux-Chella, an apparent clever allusion to the Coachella Music and Arts Festival, the event brought together an impressive lineup of tribute bands: One Fine Tapestry (Carole King), Mike Martin & The Beautiful Mess (Johnny Cash), Decade (Neil Young), Rainbow Full of Sound (Grateful Dead), The Weeklings (The Beatles), Light My Fire (The Doors), Hotel California  (Eagles), Glimmer Twins (The Rolling Stones), TUSK (Fleetwood Mac) and Echoes (Pink Floyd). Apart from these tribute acts, who performed on two main stages set up right next to each other, there were a few other bands playing on a side stage.

Faux-Chella 2017 Poster

The festival, which also featured food trucks and some merchandise stands, was organized by the CFC Loud N Clear Foundation, a New Jersey nonprofit community organization that provides support to individuals and families struggling from addiction to opioids, alcohol and other substances. All festival proceeds went to the group; in fact, over the course of the afternoon and evening, they raised more than $10,000 to support their programs! So it really was all about combining great music and a great cause – what’s not to love about it?

Following I’d like to highlight four of the above bands. In June, I already posted about the Glimmer Twins, an excellent Rolling Stones tribute, which is why I’m not including them here.

Decade

This New Jersey band primarily pays tribute to Neil Young. According to their Facebook page, the group includes John Hathaway (lead vocals, 6 and 12-string acoustic guitars, electric guitar, harmonica), Joey Herr (lead and rhythm guitar, backing vocals), Lou Perillo (bass, backing vocals), Steve Cunniff (keyboards, backing vocals) and Johnny Burke (drums, percussion). Hathaway, whose voice sounds remarkably similar to Young and who also has some visual resemblance, has studied his idol for the last 30 years.

Decade

“The guitar work and vocals have to be dead on or we will be dismissed as just another bunch of hacks,” Hathaway notes on the band’s Facebook page. “I want people to leave thinking they just saw the best thing next to Neil Young in person.” To this he could have added the reenactment of typical Young postures during live performances.

In addition to recreating Young’s music, Decade also plays select songs from other ’70s bands, such as America, Crosby, Stills & Nash, Eagles and The Allman Brothers. Yesterday was all focused on Young, more specifically his rock side – I assume in part because of time constraints. Some of the tunes they played included Like A Hurricane, The Loner, Ohio, Southern Men and Cinnamon Girl. To paraphrase the maestro, I was getting blown away! Here’s a clip of Decade I could find on YouTube.

Hotel California

Hotel California is an outstanding Eagles tribute band from Toronto, Canada. According to their website, they have done this for almost three decades and it definitely shows – the harmonies, the music, it’s all spot on! The current lineup includes Andy Lapointe (bass, vocals), Mike Dimoulas (electric guitar, acoustic guitar, keyboards, double-neck guitar, Talk Box, vocals), Dean Young (drums, vocals) and Rick Spyder (electric guitar, vocals).

Hotel California

The 60-minute set was packed with Eagles gems, such as One Of These Nights, Take It Easy, In The Long Run and, of course, Hotel California including the epic double lead guitar solo. They also threw in a couple of solo tunes from Joe Walsh (Rocky Mountain Way) and Don Henley (Dirty Laundry). The following statement from the band’s website nicely sums it up: “If you love the Eagles, then welcome to the Hotel California – you’ve just found the next best thing.” Think it’s an exaggeration? Take a look at this highlights reel. This is how they sounded yesterday as well.

TUSK

Hailing from Hunterdon County, N.J., TUSK is another true tribute labor of love. Similar to Hotel California and Decade, these guys have been faithfully capturing the music of Fleetwood Mac for a long time. According to the band’s website, their five members “have been making music together in various combinations and styles, from complete originals to covers, for over 30 years themselves.” TUSK is comprised of Kathy Phillips (vocals) as Stevie Nicks, Kim Williams (keyboards, vocals) as Christine McVie, Scott McDonald (guitars, vocals) as Lindsey Buckingham, Randy Atiglere (bass) as John McVie and Tom Nelson (drums) as Mick Fleetwood.

Tusk

In just over an hour, the band managed to play 10 Fleetwood Mac classics like The Chain, Rhiannon, Go Your Own Way and Don’t Stop, as well as Steve Nicks’ Seventeen. I have to say, their execution was pretty impressive, especially the harmonies, making TUSK one of the festival’s standouts. Again, a picture, or I should better say a clip, is worth more than a 1,000 words.

Echoes

Echoes, “the American Pink Floyd,” is a tribute band that according to their Facebook page is from Delaware and was founded in 1991. While recreating Pink Floyd’s music must be an ambitious undertaking, to say the least, I have to say it upfront: These guys did an amazing job! The band’s current lineup includes John Cassidy (drums, vocals), Kyle Frederick (bass), Dan Long (keyboards, sound effects, vocals), John Ratcliffe (vocals, guitar), William (Bill) Swezey (guitar, vocals), David Fox (guitar, lap steel), Andrew Bedell (saxophone), Michelle Sumler Hover (backing vocals), Chris Tuminello Duncan (backing vocals, keyboards) and Kat Pigliacampi (backing vocals).

Echoes.jpg

The close to 90-minute set featured Shine On You Crazy Diamond, Welcome To The Machine, Pigs (Three Different Ones) and what I thought was an interesting, less obvious choice I had to look up, since I didn’t recall the song’s title: Keep Talking, from The Division Bell album. But the highlight of the set was a performance of the entire Dark Side of the Moon, from the first note to the last.

While everybody on that stage was shining, the true standout moment came when backing vocalist Hover launched into the wordless vocal part of The Great Gig In the Sky, sung on the original by Clare Torry. Hover’s rendition of the part literally sent shivers down my spine, and I clearly wasn’t the only audience member who was wowed. Here’s a nice highlights reel from the band’s website.

Sources: Decade Facebook page, Hotel California website, TUSK website, Echoes Facebook page and website, YouTube

Ringo Starr’s New Album Reflects His Upbeat Personality

Steve Lukather, Joe Walsh, Peter Frampton and Paul McCartney among many prominent guests

After Ringo Starr had announced it on his 77th birthday back in July, his new studio album Give More Love appeared yesterday. Coming only two and a half years after Postcards From Paradise, it is Starr’s 19th studio release.

Would I post about this, if Starr wouldn’t have been part of The Beatles? It’s a fair question to ask. After all, I’ve been a huge fan of The Fab Four for close to 40 years, so I can’t deny a certain bias. But I also think Starr is one of the most likable contemporary music artists I can think of – not to mention he is revered by so many other musicians.

Despite the fame that inevitably comes from being associated with one of the most popular and influential bands of the 20th Century, Starr never comes across as being full of himself. To me he also personifies the idea that members of a band should be partners, not competitors. I suppose all of this makes him a guy with whom other artists want to play.

Perhaps nothing illustrates Starr’s personality better than his All-Starr Band, which has existed in different formations since 1989. According to Wikipedia, the concept was created by producer David Fishof, who also produced the band’s first eight tours from 1989 until 2003. While rock “supergroups” had existed before, the idea of solo artists coming together in a touring band that played songs from each was new.

Ringo Starr, Paul McCartney & Joe Walsh

Given how many high-profile artists have been part of the All-Starr Band over the years, it’s perhaps not a surprise that Give More Love includes an impressive array of guests: Steve Lukather, Joe Walsh, Peter Frampton, Jeff Lynne, Edgar Winter, Paul McCartney, Nathan East, Don Was and Timothy B. Schmit, to name some.

Ten of the tracks are original songs that have all been co-written by Starr. The album also features four bonus tracks, which are newly recorded versions of previously released songs, including Back Off Boogaloo and Photograph, two of Starr’s biggest hits.

The opener We’re On The Road Again, one of four singles that appeared prior to the album, has a nice rock groove to it. The tune was co-written by Lukather, who also plays guitar and keyboards. McCartney contributes bass, and provides background vocals, together with Winter, Walsh and Lukather.

King of the Kingdom has a laid back reggae beat. Starr’s co-writer for this tune was Van Dyke Parks, who is best known for his collaborations with Brian Wilson. Some of the guest musicians include Dave Stewart (formerly Eurythmics) on guitar, Winter on saxophone and East on bass.

Electricity is another more rock-oriented tune. Starr’s co-writer was Glen Ballard, who also contributes keyboards and backing vocals. Walsh, Starr’s brother-in-law, does some terrific guitar work, while Was is on bass. Asked about the song’s lyrics during an interview with People, Starr explained Johnny Guitar refers to the guitarist from Rory Storm and the Hurricanes, the band in which Starr played before joining The Beatles. “I loved him. He was such a great asset to the band, and he had a great attitude. He played great, but mad.”

Shake It Up, which was co-written by Gary Nicholson, has a rockabilly groove. Nicholson also plays guitar on the recording. Winter provides piano, while Was contributes the bass.

The last tune I’d like to call out is the album’s title song, another co-write with Nicholson. Give More Love was also the record’s lead single released on Starr’s birthday (July 7). Among the guest musicians are bassist Matt Bissonette, his brother Gregg Bissonette on drums, as well as Schmit on backing vocals.

In mid-October, Starr and the All-Starr Band will kick off a 19-date U.S. tour. Lukather and Gregg Bissonette will be part of the line-up, as will be Todd RundgrenGregg RollieRichard Page and Warren Ham. The tour kicks off on October 13 with an eight-gig residency in Las Vegas and concludes on November 16 in Newark, N.J.

Asked during the above People interview what keeps him hungry after all this time, Starr said, “The playing is what it’s all about. That’s why I’m touring, that’s why I make records. That’s why I play with a lot of the people who ask me. I just love to play. I’m in a profession and a position where I can just play for as long as I can. As long as I can hold the sticks! That’s what it’s all about.”

Sources: Wikipedia, People, Ringo Starr website, YouTube

 

What I’ve Been Listening To: Devon Allman/Ride Or Die

Allman’s third studio album shows skilled blues rock guitarist comfortable carrying famous family name

Yesterday, I coincidentally saw a commemorative event for Gregg Allman pop up on Facebook Live and ended up watching for some time. Among others, it included Gregg’s former guitarist and music director Scott Sharrard and Devon Allman. Not only had I not realized that Gregg Allman had a son, but I also had not known Devon is a professional guitarist who has been playing since the early ’90s and has had a recording career of more than 10 years.

Let me say this right upfront. Devon is a pretty good guitarist who writes his own music and has a decent voice. While after experimenting with other music styles in his twenties he eventually embraced the genre of his famous dad, he is not trying to be a Gregg Allman copy. In fact, the two of them didn’t even meet until Devon was in his teens and already had taken up music. But he is also no longer denying what feels natural to him and coming from the heart: blues rock.

All My Friends: Celebrating The Songs & Voice Of Gregg Allman - Backstage & Audience

Devon’s mother was Gregg’s first wife, Shelley Kay Jefts. When they divorced in 1972, Devon was still an infant. He grew up with his mom in Corpus Christi, Tex. and later also lived in Tennessee and St. Louis, MO. In a Dec. 2006 interview with Blogcritics Music, Devon noted, “I actually got to grow up in a very normal suburban American existence. I didn’t meet him [Gregg Allman] until I was in my teens, but we formed a bond instantly. Luckily, I didn’t have to grow up amidst the insanity that they went through. He is just one of many heroes of mine… those who sing and play from the heart. Those who overcome insane odds to still do what they love to do. He really lets me do my own thing with no meddling.”

On to Ride Or Die, which is Devon Allman’s most recent studio album that was released almost exactly a year ago. The 12-track set kicks off with Say Your Prayers, a nice blues rocker. Co-written by Allman and rhythm guitarist Tyler Stokes, the tune features a catchy guitar riff and some cool wah-wah sound that is also present on various other tunes on the record.

Galaxies is another blues rocker with a great groove. In addition to the guitar work, I like the Hammond-style keyboard played by Kevin McKendree. The song, another co-write by Allman and Stokes, includes the line, “when galaxies collide will you ride or die?” from which the album’s title was derived.

The record also has quieter tunes, such as Lost, featuring Allman mostly on acoustic guitar. He adds some nice accents with what sounds like a mix between electric wah-wah and the Talkbox effect – pretty cool.

Shattered Times is another standout on the album. The blues rock tune, which features great wah-wah rhythm guitar, was co-written by producer Tom Hambridge, who also played drums on all tracks, and Richard Fleming.

The last track I’d like to highlight is one of the quieter songs, Live From the Heart. It’s one of five tunes Allman penned by himself. Similar to Lost, the track is mostly acoustic and also features nice keyboard work.

Ride Or Die was recorded in Nashville and appeared on the independent German label Ruf Records, which also issued Allman’s two previous solo albums Ragged & Dirty (2014) and Turquoise (2013). Other musicians on the record include Steve Duerst (bass), Ron Holloway (saxophone) and Bobby Yang (violin). With Hambridge, Allman had an experienced and award-winning rock, country and blues producer, who has worked with other artists like Susan Tedeschi, George Thorogood, Johnny Winter and Buddy Guy.

The album was well received. Blues Blast Magazine noted Allman “continues to produce blues-rock albums that have a wide appeal through the quality of the songwriting, Devon’s distinctive voice and guitar skills.” Blues Rock Review called it “the highlight of Allman’s career thus far,” while Relix concluded it’s “a purposeful effort by a second-generation artist well worthy of his pedigree.”

Sources: Wikipedia, Blogcritics Music, Blues Blast Magazine, Blues Rock Review, Relix, YouTube