Being the progeny of rock royalty is both a blessing and a curse.
While last names like Lennon, Dylan, or Zappa will undoubtedly open doors by providing a young artist a leg up in securing a contract and a fan base, the expectations on such artists are indisputably higher.
Surely, this isn’t lost on the members of the Allman Betts Band, a new group led by Devon Allman, Gregg's son, and Duane Betts, the son of Dickey Betts with Berry Oakley Jr., who readily acknowledge they have some big shoes to fill.
Fortunately, the group’s brand of soulful country rock, heard on its debut, “Down to the River,” proves a worthy addition to the family legacy while avoiding mere imitation.
The album, released in June, blends the expected sun-dappled jamming and corkscrewing guitar leads with bluesy Americana, country funk and ragged rock more evocative of Mick Taylor-era Rolling Stones than anything associated with their Southern rock forebears.
Style Weekly caught up with co-founder Devon Allman in advance of the band’s show at The National on Nov. 8.
Style: You guys originally met as kids on the Allman Brothers reunion tour back in 1989. Whose idea was it to form a band?
Devon Allman: Well, I had wanted to do this for years, but it was just never the right time. I had obligations with record labels to deliver albums and Duane was a member of Dawes and the Dickey Betts Band, so nothing ever really lined up the way we wanted it to.
Last year I told Duane, “Man, why don’t you come and be my opening act, and we can jam at the end?” So we did that, and after we got a few months under our belt, we started trying to write songs. It came from a place of “Let’s see what happens.” It didn’t come from a place of “Hey, we have to do this.” But like any band—even a band that doesn’t have any famous last names in it — you got to have chemistry. If Duane and I sat down to write songs and nothing came out, that would have been OK. But luckily, it was pure chemistry.
The album was recorded in just five days. Is that quicker than you usually work?
The first time I produced myself I rented Ardent Studios in Memphis for 30 days. I always thought it took a month to make a record. Then I went to make a record in 2012 with Royal Southern Brotherhood, and we did that record in six days. And then when I did my second solo album, “Ragged & Dirty,” we did that son-of-a-bitch in four days. So when we went to do this Muscle Shoals thing, I told Duane, “Let’s book six days,” and Duane looked at me like I was from Mars. But I knew we’d walk away with the record done. And we got it done in five days, not six! I think that’s a testament to the crack band that is the Allman Betts Band. These are all world-class cats. Every track was a first or second take.
You brought in an outside writer, Stoll Vaughn, for this record. What was his contribution?
Stoll was a really excellent mediator, and he was really good at cheerleading the hot hand. Like if me or Duane had a cool guitar riff, he’d be the one to be like “Yeah, see where that goes,” or when Duane would be strumming a couple chords and I’d walk into the dressing room and start singing, Stoll would grab the recorder. He was a good organizer. It really allowed us to just be artistic. I had never really worked in a triangle like that, but it was really cool.
We’ve already flown him out to start writing for the next record.
On “Down to the River,” you cover Tom Petty’s “Southern Accents.” What is it about this song that appealed to you?
The song appealed to me because Tom had recently passed, and because most us are from the South, and we were recording in the South. It just touched on so many themes that just worked for the record.
Speaking of covers, the Allman Betts Band has recently been performing select Allman Brothers tunes in concert. Is this something you think the band will continue to do?
It’s a real delicate balance. We don’t have to play those songs; we want to. And we like seeing the faces light up, you know? If you’re playing a 15- or 20-song set and you do two Allman Brothers songs — maybe a third for the encore — it’s the perfect amount, because then you’re not overdoing it or abusing your privilege.
I think we’ve done a really good job of striking a balance.
The Allman Betts Band performs at the National on Friday, Nov. 8, at 8 p.m. Tickets for the all-ages show cost $27.50 to $32.50. thenationalva.com.