Hiatus permits Allman to resurrect Project
The Allman Betts Band’s 2022 hiatus announced in January may have come abruptly, but according to Devon Allman, it always was part of the plan.
“When Duane (Betts) and I started this band, we made a pact that sometime in the first five years to take a year to ourselves to do some solo projects,” Allman said. “I’m sitting on three records I’m dying to release. Duane put out an EP as his first release and has never had time to do a full album. Let’s just do it now. It came a little sooner than maybe people thought it would come, but that’s a positive thing.”
Devon is the son of Greg Allman and Duane is the son of Dickey Betts, founding members of the Allman Brothers Band, and Allman-Betts also includes Berry Duane Oakley, son of the Allman’s bass player Berry Oakley.
In some ways, Allman said they’re following their fathers’ leads. For years, the Allman Brothers Band would tour in the summer and then separate until March to work on other projects.
“We wanted to come out of the gate as a brand new band and just hammer it and hammer it until it was established, and that’s afforded us the ability to walk away from it for six to 12 months,” Allman said.
The band played last weekend in Las Vegas as part of its Allman Family Revival tour, which he called, “A great way to leave it for now.”
Allman said he realized there’s “some speculation” about what prompted the decision now, but added, “There’s a lot of love there for all of us to pick it up again.”
But there was one obstacle. The Allman-Betts Band had a March tour scheduled, which included a show tonight at The Kent Stage and Saturday at Robins Theatre in Warren. Many of the dates on the trek had been announced before the COVID-19 pandemic started in March 2020 and had been rescheduled multiple times.
“Promoters already had put up advertising budgets twice and lost because of COVID,” he said. “This was the third date. Then there’s the fans who’ve been holding tickets for an event they lost twice. I couldn’t see scrapping the dates altogether. I couldn’t do that to the promoters or the fans.”
Taking the place of the Allman-Betts Band is a tour featuring the Devon Allman Project, Samantha Fish and the River Kittens that will play both venues.
Fish, who headlined a show at the Robins last fall, was available because her European tour was canceled during the surge of the omicron variant. The two have a long history of touring and playing together, and they recorded a version of the Tom Petty-Stevie Nicks duet “Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around” a decade ago for Allman’s solo album “Turquoise.”
While each group will do their own set, Allman guaranteed he and Fish will do something together.
“I love Sam. We go so far back to be on tour together and to not jam would be criminal.”
Fans can expect other guest appearances on the tour as well. Luther Dickinson of North Mississippi All-Stars will be with Allman in Kent and Warren, and other dates will feature Jimmy Hall of Wet Willie and blues guitarists Eric Gales and Larry McCray.
“In the spirit of togetherness, let’s sweeten the pot and invite some friends to come out,” he said. “It makes it exciting. Usually only LA and New New York get that excitement. Why should it only be LA and New York? Why can’t it be Warren, Ohio?”
Both Allman and Dickinson have famous fathers — Dickinson is the son of music producer Jim Dickinson (Big Star, The Replacements) — and those famous fathers worked together in their careers. The sons have worked together as well. The same day Allman and Fish recorded “Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around” at Ardent Studios in Memphis, Dickinson recorded a slide guitar solo for “Turquoise.” He also has been a frequent guest at Allman Family Revival shows.
One of those three unreleased albums Allman has is a band called The Slays that he formed with Luther’s brother and North Mississippi All-Stars bandmate, Cody Dickinson.
Since Cody won’t be on the current tour, Allman doesn’t plan to play any of those tracks. Another album is an instrumental project that he described as “trippy, a little avant garde,” and he won’t be playing those songs either. But some music from the third album, which he’s recording at Criteria Studios in Miami (where the Allman Brothers recorded its “Each a Peach” album 51 years ago), may make Saturday’s setlist.
“Some of the songs I’m preparing for that record will get road tested in March, for sure.”
Allman has plenty of other songs from which to pick. He said the set list will draw on his solo albums, his early days with Devon Allman’s Honeytribe and, his work with Royal Southern Brotherhood as well as, “Songs from my dad’s catalog, of course, and cool cover songs.”