What does it sound like?:
I reviewed the first Allman Betts Band album, 13 months ago, and liked it. My notes were; songwriting needs to up its game, Devon’s voice has limitations, great playing.
So, to the 2nd album, “Bless Your Heart.”
The opener, Pale Horse Rider, is a gem, and I cannot stop playing it. A quiet opening is shattered by a huge, “Like A Hurricane” chord and Devon Allman sings his arse off. The guitar playing is beautifully constructed and the production keeps the separation between the guitars and Chuck Leavell’s organ.
A great start.
Then into Carolina Song, a slow stomper which will be a live favourite, (remember live music, kids?) The chorus is packed with female backing singers and organ and it leaps out of the speakers.
King Crawler would not be out of place on a ‘70’s Stones album – all Keef singing, plenty of Bobby’s sax and Charlie driving the beat. Duane takes the vocals and does his best Keef impression. It is a joyous noise.
The big set-piece is the 12 minute instrumental, Savannah’s Dream. It sets off on that jazzy road so beloved of Dickey and Duane, with twin lead guitars glistening in the sunshine. You just know that various solos will come along on the journey, and the dynamics are beautifully structured. Devon gets the bottleneck slide out, Chuck Leavell gets to tickle the electric ivories and, by halfway, the band is steaming along nicely. They ease down a few gears, (probably anticipating the Highway Patrol motorcyclist with the big Ray Bans, hidden around the corner,) and then kick it into top gear for Duane’s solo. And now, the band is really flying, kicking back to the twin lead passage. This is an exhilarating ride of a track.
Airboats and Cocaine would not be out of place on a Lynyrd Skynyrd album, Magnolia Road lifts the spirits and Congratulations is a beautiful closer.
The album is too long. 72 minutes, across 13 tracks, is too much for any band to sustain the “all killer, no filler,” policy and there are at least 3 songs which could be dropped. Having said that, the songwriting has definitely upped its game, the playing is superb, and this is a big step forward from the first album.
What does it all *mean*?
The progression in quality sounds like it has been borne out of lots of gigging, and then a frustration once Covid kicked in. What the enforced break has done is improved the songwriting.
I really like this album. A lot.
Goes well with…
A hot, sunny day, cold beer and red kites over my garden.
28th August 2020
Might suit people who like…
Allmans, Tom Petty, Lynyrds, Stones, Molly Hatchett, great guitar playing.