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.

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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