CD Review – Devon Allman “Turquoise”
When Howlin’ Wolf was recording his ‘68 electric offering, The Howlin’ Wolf Album, he was less than pleased with the effects (and the hairstyle) that Afro- wearing guitarist and Mile Davis alum Pete Cosey brought to the session, telling him “Why don’t you take them wah-wahs and all that other shit and go throw it off into the lake on your way to the barbershop?” After hearing Devon Allman perform with Royal Southern Brotherhood, that’s a question that you feel Allman should address as well. It’s hard to hear or enjoy his prowess on guitar when he’s bow- wowin’ so much that everything he plays sounds like the “Theme From Shaft.”
Thankfully he’s either stored his wah-wah or hopefully thrown it in the river for Turquoise, his first solo outing on Ruf Records.
If you’re expecting to hear shades of his famous family’s band, you’re going to be disappointed. The only thing close to the Allmans’s signature sound is the vaguely “Little Martha” sounding acoustic cut, “Yadira’s Lullaby.”
Vocally, Allman sounds like Eric Clapton, even turning in a guitar solo worthy of Clapton on “Homesick,” a twisty wiggly, dreamy, string bender that manages to capture the loneliness of a weary road dawg rocker without being trite or maudlin.
Ironically, the most powerful cut is a cover of Tom Petty’s ’81 hit “Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around,” with Allman doing a pretty good TP impersonation vocally and guitarily and 2012 BMA Award winner for Best New Artist Debut Samantha Fish taking the Stevie Nicks part.
Even though it’s a love song with a Tom Petty feel, “Don’t Set Me Free” has the most clang factor on the release, with Allman’s guitar clanking away big footedly in the mix, sounding like he’s using a rake as a pick.
Allman dredges up some soul man vocal chops for “Into the Darkness,” channeling Doobie Bros era-Michael McDonald on an ode to his son that he says has been bouncing around in his head since the birth of his boy Orion 13 years ago.
He gets tropical with “Key Lime Pie,” a mellow shout out to his sweettart Cuban girlfriend.
It’s good to hear Allman finally using his hands instead of his feet to get his guitar messages across. And at least as long as he’s promoting this album in his live shows, nobody will be tempted to tell him to get his bow -wow box wet.
photo and text by Grant Britt