By John Benson
Devon Allman feels ragged.
Whether it’s the nonstop touring of his debut solo, “Turquoise,” or the many gigs with his latest band Royal Southern Brotherhood, the son of Greg Allman has come under the weather.
“I’ve been sick and laid up in bed for three days,” said Allman, calling from St. Louis. “I’ve canceled my second and third show in 20 years, and right now I feel as ragged and dirty as you can possibly feel.”
It should be noted that “Ragged and Dirty” is also the name of his next solo effort, which will be a Chicago blues record recorded in the Windy City with old-school equipment and some of the genre’s best sidemen.
The seed for a Chicago blues album was planted last year when singer-guitarist Allman joined high-profile blues group Royal Southern Brotherhood — Cyril Neville (vocals), Mike Zito (guitar), Yonrico Scott (drummer) and Charlie Wooton (bassist) — after spending more than a decade fronting his own band Honeytribe.
“After being in Royal Southern Brotherhood, I realized I didn’t want to make another band album with Honeytribe,” Allman said. “I wanted to focus on songs that did not have dynamics. I wanted to focus on songs that would start and end the same way, in terms of the tempo and feel.
“I really wanted a song-based record, like a Tom Petty record. That was the goal. It was time to turn that corner and say, ‘I’ve been in Honeytribe for 15 years and it was time to evolve.’”
Evolving through deconstruction and musical rebirth is how Allman approached “Turquoise.” Honeytribe was a band where everyone played all over the place. Allman felt the music wasn’t allowed to breathe, with the lyrics suffering in the process.
The Royal Southern Brotherhood showed him it was time to step away from the group’s honeycomb, if you will, and step up his songwriting.
“I really just tried to get better at the craft, at songwriting,” Allman said. “Of the new songs I was most proud of, ‘Time Machine’ really stuck with me. Also, there’s ‘Turn Off the World.’ Those are the more subdued pieces on the record, but I think they kind of said the most within their little timeframes.”
So now Allman is touring the album solo-style featuring “Turquoise” tracks along with Royal Southern Brotherhood and Honeytribe tunes, as well as a few Allman Brothers Band songs. After all, he comes from Southern rock royalty.
Allman returns to the Youngstown area Wednesday for a show at the Stage at Harley-Davidson Biketown in Austintown. He said he has fond memories of the area.
“It’s been a while but I remember Youngstown being one of my first sellouts, which was a huge deal,” Allman said. “Now we’re use to selling out shows. It’s still always a great feeling when the promoter walks into the room and says the show is sold out. But when it’s one of your first few, it’s an amazing feeling where you’re like, all of the years of really bumming people’s amps and thanking people for coming to your show and struggling were not in vain.”
Now all he has to do is feel better and make it to Ohio.
“Exactly,” Allman said. “I’ll do my best.”