One of summer’s most anticipated releases is the debut album from the Allman Betts Band, Down To The River, which releases on June 28thvia BMG. The band has already been heavily touring in pre-support of the release, and undoubtedly will continue to do so. I attended an early show of the tour and you can read my review and see some photos here: https://americanahighways.org/2019/05/13/show-review-allman-betts-band-showcases-their-collaborations-with-john-simo-in-okc/
Down To The River was recorded at the seminal Muscle Shoals Sound Studios with Matt Ross-Spang handling production duties. The band consists of Devon Allman and Duane Betts, both on guitars and vocals, in addition to Berry Oakley Jr. on bass, Johnny Stachela on guitar, drummer John Lum and percussionist R. Scott Bryan. The album also features special guests Peter Levin as well as Chuck Levall on keys and organ (the touring band is rounded out with the stoic John Ginty handling the keyboard duties). The band’s approach to recording was a simple, organic approach. The band simply set up as one in the famed studios, and captured lightening in a bottle. Down To The River was recorded live to 2 inch analog tape and rendered with no computers, and zero digital editing. The results are a nine track album that’s rich in nuances and warmth. It’s an album that’s familiar, comfortable, and bold.
Things start off with, “All Night” and from the 1,2,3 count Devon delivers at its beginning, you just know this one is gonna be a rocker, and it absolutely doesn’t disappoint. Chock full of nice catchy hooks, as well as a blistering guitar solo that just builds and builds in intensity, this is a fine introduction to the band. The slide guitar that closes this one out just screams those ABB familiar bird whistles. That familiarity is present throughout the album, and in particular, on the next cut “Shinin’”, but it never overpowers the individual statement the band is making. Therein lies the magic that is the Allman Betts Band; familiar, yet distinctive.
Down To The River‘s nine tracks clock in at just a bit under 45 minutes. Vocals are split equally between Allman and Betts, with both men’s vocals projecting confidence and accentuated by being up front in the mix. The great production work rendered by Ross-Spang shouldn’t be overlooked. He really makes the band shine here, with “Autumn Breeze” being the perfect example. Oakley’s bass lines dance about clearly, helping to set the low end, but refuse to anchor, being more content to help lead the way. The lyrically reflective, contemplative song begins with spacey opening swells, swirling and building and culminates with the song being as near a representation of the live show as possible. If you like your music with a bit of jam, this one’s for you.
Highlights were many for me. In fact, with each additional listen, this song or that song seemed to jump out at me in ways I missed previously. The songs stand alone well, but really underscore a collective feel for the album. The title track is slow and sultry. “Autumn Breeze” and “Good Ol’ Days” are nostalgic. Allman’s piano driven take on Petty’s “Southern Accents” is damn near perfection, and “Juliette” adds another strong female character to a memorable story that already includes “Melissa,” “Jessica” and one “Elizabeth Reed.” But perhaps no song captured my attention as “Long Gone” did. A stunning duet between Allman and Betts, it’s soulful and sweet. “It’s time to get back home.” It’s a sweet homecoming indeed that these men connected and collaborated when they did. With the Allman Betts Band and Down To The River, all feels right in the world. A void many of us felt with the end of the Allman Brothers Band has been filled.
More information on The Allman Betts Band and ordering options for Down To The River can be found here: https://www.allmanbettsband.com/