Singer-guitarist Devon Allman, who shares the bill with jam rockers Rusted Root at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 1, at House of Blues
, has fond memories of Northeast Ohio. He lived in the area for a few years and became a regular at the old Richfield Coliseum.
“Back then in my collection, I had Miles Davis and Jimi Hendrix and Iron Maiden and Hall and Oates and Slayer — everything,” he says via phone. “I’ve always been that way. I always had very vast musical taste buds. I saw every show I could [at the Richfield Coliseum]. I saw Judas Priest and Iron Maiden and tons of shows. I always ended up going alone. Everyone’s parents were freaked out by heavy metal. My mom would drop me off and then tell me where to meet at 11. I would go and rock the show. I was grateful that my mom had some vision and understanding that it’s no different than if your mom dropped your kid at the art museum. It’s an enriching experience.”
Initially, Allman, the son of classic rocker Gregg Allman, played a few different styles before settling on the blues.
“I think when I came out the gate at 18 or 19, I didn’t want to sound like my family,” says Allman, who also counts the late Duane Allman as a relative. “I wanted my own identity. In a cerebral way, I gravitated to what was happening, which was grunge. My first real band from age 20 to 25 was a post grunge hippie stoner rock Blind Melon-ish Pearl Jam-ish band. We actually did really well with it. Once I was done with that band and ready to graduate to something more organic, my love for R&B floated to the top. I thought if I kind of sounded like my dad or uncle, that’s who I am. I decided to stop worrying about it. If you play from the heart, the comparisons don’t matter. At least, I was playing purely.”
Released earlier this year, Allman’s latest album, Ride Or Die
, finds the bluesman expanding his sound. Recorded at Nashville’s Sound Stage Studios and Switchyard Studios, Ride Or Die
represents Allman’s attempt to break free of whatever constrictions he felt from playing blues music for diehard blues fans. The album commences with the heavy “Say Your Prayers,” a song that features a beefy guitar riff and husky vocals. While it’s not a huge departure, it verges more on hard rock than blues. And tracks such as “Find Ourselves,” with its spirited horn section, have a vintage soul feel.
“For the last ten years when I would make records, I always was kind of trying to cater to the blues rock lovers of the world,” says Allman. “The fact is my musical approach is so varied that I would often squash certain influence that would never see the light of day. This time, I thought that I’ve earned my stripes and I have my fan base. I feel my fan base was ready to hear me stretch out. With certain textures and fun ear candy going on and really producing this album, I thought it would to be interesting to listen to. I thought about that instead of whether fans of Skynyrd or whoever would like it. I wanted to make a record for me and not give a fuck. When I played it back in the studio, it almost feels like my first record. It was like my coming out. I’m pleased with it. It’s a good step and I think it’s good timing.”
Allman says he’s known the guys in Rusted Root, his tour mates for a fall jaunt, for years but only reently began playing with them.
“We ended up with the same booking agent,” he says. “We did a few shows last year. We had a love fest. The two bands got along really great. The music for the fans was a good blend. I never give away details [about collaborating during the show] because I want people to come to the concert. That’s like a magician giving away the secrets to his tricks. I’ll just say that cross-pollination in music is essential. Last night, I had the day off and drove down to Columbia, Missouri, and I sat in with G. Love and Special. Sauce. They’re old buddies of mine. Any chance there’s a chance to jam and blend styles, I love it. You can expect to see me strap a guitar on near the end of the Rusted set and trading some licks.”