Devon Allman hits the road across the UK with his solo band in support of his latest release Ragged and Dirty.
Allmanâ€™s last visit to the UK was with the Royal Southern Brotherhood, the band which he formed with Cyril Neville, Mike Zito, Yonrico Scott and Charlie Wooton. However, following the earlier departure of Mike Zito, Devon left the group to pursue his solo career.
National Rock Review recently caught up with Devon Allman during his visit to the UK to talk about touring, his latest album and the blues scene back in his hometown of St. Louis, Missouri.
NRR: Thank you for taking the time to speak to us here at National Rock Review.
Devon: Of course, my pleasure.
NRR: So you’ve been out on the road in Europe for about a week or so now, how have the shows been going so far?
Devon: Amazing, like I haven’t been here as a solo artist in a long time. I mean probably five years. I thought people might have forgotten about me, so to have these crowds, it’s been like this every single night. Very blessed.
NRR: Obviously you’ve just come off stage in Newcastle, and you got a great response. What’s your favorite track in your set to perform live and why?
Devon: Oh man…. This is like the one time I’ve been able to put together a show that really takes you through my whole discography like the Honeytribe stuff, the Royal Southern Brotherhood stuff, solo records, so I really love all of the songs.
I really like playing “Midnight Lake Michigan,” that oneâ€™s just a special tune, you know it’s weird how it even came together, it’s kind of different every night. I love doing “No Woman No Cry” you know when the crowd sings along, that’s always a nice thing. I like the whole show, it’s been a lot of fun.
NRR: Your latest album Ragged and Dirty, could you tell us a bit about it and the inspiration behind the album?
Devon: Yeah, I realized that I made all of my records down south, so I really wanted a kind of a …I don’t know like a big city vibe on it you know. I went to Chicago, I got to use half of Buddy Guy’s band. Amazing players that my producer put together.
You know I’ve either produced my own records or I’ve used Jim Gaines, who is amazing but Tom Hambridge, the guy that’s won the Grammys with Buddy Guy, he’s such an amazing producer and I think he really pulled a lot of good stuff out of me. I think we really got the Chicago vibe on there.
NRR: Where do you find the inspiration for your song writing?
Devon: Oh man, inspiration …life, love, pain, art, observations.
NRR: I wanted to ask you about your guitar strap. It looks like Duane’s guitar strap, is it actually his?
Devon: The guy that made Duane’s called me one day and said hey man I made you one, gimme your address. I’ve been using them ever since.
NRR: How much of an influence was Duane on you as a guitarist?
Devon: You know, I mean I think he is more of an inspiration as a human being you know because he was just really incredible. You know the one thing, even at a young age, I didn’t want to sit down and like learn his licks. I just consider those really sacred.
Dickey Betts when I was a young cat, I left high school to go on tour with The Allman Brothers and I learned a lot from Dickey. So Dickey’s probably more of an influence. It doesn’t mean that I don’t think Duane is absolutely amazing because he is, but I kind of purposely never learned slide, and never played his licks because it’s so sacred and I don’t just want to cop onto his thing.
NRR: Back in St. Louis you’ve got your Friday Night Blues club at the Ameristar. How’s that been going?
Devon: Amazing, we just signed up for a second year. Crowds have been getting bigger and bigger. It’s really cool because it’s in St. Charles, which is a suburb of St. Louis. I actually live like eight blocks from the venue, right there along the river. I miss home a lot.
We didn’t really have a place for blues, so it’s cool. You would normally have to drive about 40 minutes into the city to go to like the little blues clubs.
NRR: I know that St. Louis has got a really good blues scene. Obviously, you’ve been getting a lot of that talent at your night. Which bands have caught your attention out there recently?
Devon: Oh man, it’s the same bands that have been killing it forever…. Jeremiah Johnson, Tony Campanella, Steve Pecaro, Kim Massie, Marquise Knox. I mean we have a very rich blues identity there and I’m very happy to be living there and I’m very happy to have a place for all my friends to come and play.
NRR: I believe you are also involved with the National Blues Museum in St. Louis, which opens later this year.
Devon: April 2nd, it’s so beautiful. I’ve being going to the board meetings when I’m not on tour. We’ve been making a lot of decisions about you know everything from where we can put artifacts and what we are going to sell in the gift shop and I’m really honored to be on the board of directors, it’s an amazing experience.
NRR: What else do you have in store for the rest of this year?
Devon: I am about two-thirds of the way through writing the next record. It looks like I’m going to cut it in May, probably released in September. It’s going to be the most different record I’ve ever done. It’s not really blues but it’s really like a genre-bending record. There’s going to be some Americana, some rock and roll you know some soul, some blues. I don’t know, it’s a bit of a departure but I think it was time to change it up a little.
NRR: Thanks for taking the time to speak to us, we really appreciate it.
Devon: Of course.