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Space Age Blues
Artist: Devon Allman’s Honeytribe
Label: Provogue
Time: 11 Tracks / 46 minutes

Anyone attracted by the Allman name will enjoy this. Devon (son of Gregg) insists that he “didn’t grow up in limos or backstage” and “only relatively recently have I been open enough to listen to the advice my Dad has shared,” but the heritage is clearly there. 

Devon has added significantly to what he has inherited to make this disc a fine collection of strong songs with plenty of musical colour. That is why he calls it Space Age Blues: “I love blues and I’m a sci-fi geek, so I imagined a marriage of the two: music with a backbone that’s solid and soulful, lyrics that talk of where we’re at and where we’re heading, and a sprinkling of cosmic dust – colorful, creative sounds – on top of everything.” While his other summary of the music (“Darth Vader meets B. B. King”) is meaningless and unhelpful, this quote really has nailed the sound. It is tight and muscular throughout with vivid inflections of sonic color.

This trio’s album gets off to a powerful start on “Could Get Dangerous” with harmonica work from Huey Lewis and guitar stabs from Allman that are not just licks, but solar flares of sound, searing hot and huge. Underneath it all sits a bed of wah-wah guitar and a taut rhythm section.

While the title track slows it down to a more soulful vibe, the wah-wah bed remains, wrapped up with a quiet organ. This time, the sax contributes the hot licks along with Allman’s aching guitar, giving it a bit of a Floyd feel. If the sax sounds good, so it should, coming from Dizzy Gillespie’s sidesman Ron Holloway.

The highlight for me is “Endless Diamond,” its backbone a colossal riff that struts out of the speakers, cocksure and compelling. Try disliking this and you are bound to fail. But there is not a bad track on the album – even the low point of “Take me to the Bridge” is more than filler and very enjoyable. There is a noticeable nod to the dynasty on “New Pet Monkey:” the piano could be lifted straight from his Dad’s old keyboard player, Chuck Leavell.

The one track that sits uneasily with the rest is the Stevie Wonder track “Sir Duke.” It may be because it is the only piece that had a life before this disc or because it is about trad. jazz, so less appropriate, but it is still a strong account of the piece and it fits well musically.

This disc has a noticeable searching spirituality. The opener has questions about trust and how the planet keeps going; “Endless Diamond” name-checks Adam and Eve and the Egyptians as it talks of “searching for the divine;” while “Salvation” (where Holloway excels) puts it plainly: “Lord, won’t you help me find salvation / I’m standing at the edge of the sea / and I’d swim for miles to find heaven / and have angels watch over me.” 

Allman’s vocals are commanding throughout – he would earn his place even if he didn’t play guitar – and when he rests them for two instrumentals, the kaleidoscope turns for a different pattern that adds to the experience. The 115 second tribute to French culture “Bleu Est la Vie” is a quiet acoustic dabble, while the closer, “Insh’Allah” has the spaciest sound of all, coming across like a cross between Sabbath’s ”Planet Caravan” and some generic Santana.

In short, this is a safe bet for anyone who likes blues, Southern rock or classic rock, with its characterful songs, emotional playing, vibrant ribbons of sound and some masterful production that brings the best out of everything.

Derek Walker


 
 

 
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