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Devon Allman keeps busy with RSB and solo career

Devon Allman_2014.jpg

One time is too little, and five times is way too much. Two times seems just about right.

That, in a nutshell, is what Devon Allman prefers when it comes to how many consecutive albums he’ll make with the same producer, whether it’s a band project or one of his solo releases.

“If you bounce every time, then it’s very erratic,” adds Allman. “I think you get into a little rhythm for a couple records. … If there was anything you maybe really didn’t get to do on the first, then you have that second one.”

For heartsoulblood, the second album by Royal Southern Brotherhood, the person behind the board at Dockside Studios in Maurice, Louisiana, was Jim Gaines, who also handled production duties for RSB’s self-titled 2012 debut.

“He’s like Papa Bear; he’s like the best head coach, a Vince Lombardi-type,” says Allman. “Without trampling all over the music, he gets you to do it the best you can. He gets down to the essence of it.”

According to Allman, for the latest album, he and the other Royal Southern Brotherhood members — Cyril Neville, Charlie Wooton, Yonrico Scott and Mike Zito, who recently left the band — did “a ton of writing” while on planes, buses and vans, taking full advantage of GarageBand. The song “Groove On,” for example, began as a series of GarageBand demos bassist Wooton sent to Allman.

“They had working titles, and he named one ‘Groove On,’ ” Allman recalls. “And I thought, ‘That’s a cool song title.’ Then I started thinking about Charlie and his wife, Tracy, and they’re a really sweet couple. He never really gets a chance in this band to write her a song, so I kind of wrote [those lyrics] for Tracy from his perspective.”

Then there’s the Allman-written “Shoulda Known,” one of the few tracks on the album penned by one person. That tune came to Allman quickly while at the Dockside compound.
“I had the main hook [initially], and on the second night of recording, I knew that the next day they were going to ask me for a tune or two,” he says. “I wasn’t digging anything that I really had; I was finessing about five things.

“Everybody got done with a 14-hour workday and went into the main house to watch a movie, and I stayed out on the porch and I wrote ‘Trapped’ right there. The next morning we cut it. It just came — thank God it came.”

Allman says the inspiration for “Trapped” struck during a soundcheck. He came up with a “little Jimi Hendrix-y riff” and recorded it to his iPhone, thinking to himself, “That’s a keeper.” He fleshed it out some more on his own after that, then RSB polished off the song’s arrangement during a weeklong writing session in Norway.

Norway was just one of the stops on Royal Southern Brotherhood’s recent tour; the band will begin a block of dates in the United States on Dec. 11. Until then, Allman’s focus will be touring select states in November to support his new solo album, Ragged & Dirty, released earlier this month on Ruf Records. Its predecessor, 2013’s Turquoise, was produced by Gaines — so technically, and perhaps coincidentally, if you count that one and the two RSB albums, Allman worked with the same producer for three consecutive albums. Nevertheless, he did go in a different direction for Ragged & Dirty, working with Tom Hambridge at Joyride Studios in Chicago.

“I’ve done all my records in the South,” Allman says. “I decided it was time to go to the electric blues mecca, tap into that vibe and surround myself with cats who live and breathe it. Besides producing, Tom custom-wrote some songs for this record that really aligned my path.”

— By Chris M. Junior

Devon Allman on tour (schedule subject to change):

* Nov. 6: Hard Rock Café and Casino — Sioux City, Iowa
* Nov. 8: The Gramophone — St. Louis
* Nov. 11: Douglass Theatre — Macon, Ga.
* Nov. 12: Ponte Vedra Concert Hall — Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.
* Nov. 13: Screwie Louie’s — Seminole, Fla.
* Nov. 14: Funky Biscuit — Boca Raton, Fla.
* Nov. 15: The Stage — Miami
* Nov. 16-20: The Simple Man Cruise — Miami
* Nov. 21: Aces Live — Brandenton, Fla.
* Nov. 22: The Blue Rooster — Sarasota, Fla.
* Nov. 23: Earl’s Hideaway — Sebastian Beach, Fla.