Devon Allman – Riding Hard
The US musician is on a series of UK dates promoting his Ride Or Die album and after a classy and soul-soaked set at the Boom Boom Club in Sutton, Pete and Devon speak about all manner of things, after he has met the attending fans and checked in with home. His guitar playing is fluid and spiky, but you’d hire him as a singer anyday…
DA: (laughs) I know your voice, Pete – we spoke about the previous album? In some detail, I recall!
JLTT: Correct, we had a phoner. Which is why I came down to meet you tonight, it’s about time! And we could talk about this current record Ride Or Die?
Oh, a pleasure…it’s cool you could come to the show and hang out
I was kinda hoping tonight you’d do Pleasure & Pain, from the record..
(Sighs) Maaaan! Y’know, that’s one of my favourites. But having a brand new band and also a discography now that’s long in the tooth, up to eleven records if you include Royal Southern and HoneyTribe..
Ah, I saw HoneyTribe here! Great set..
Right! So of course you know the history, it’s kinda tough to achieve..you sorta want to play a little something off every record for people. Naturally people have their favourite records, whatever and would be happy to hear all of that one live, but you want to feature new material -of course – so on current sets we have maybe half the new album and the rest represents other key songs, I guess. And maybe a cover or two. But I am glad you like that song, it really is one I like a lot.
As a bandleader I first find out what the guys fancy including then create a setlist to balance up different keys, tempo’s…really what I would enjoy as an audience member. You seem to give your boys a lot of freedom
(Warmly) Yes!! To a degree. End of the day, Pete the songs are The Boss. You don’t want to overplay the songs. But yes I definitely give them freedom to express themselves, crack that song open and jam it out and stretch out a little bit. I think it is important and adds that dynamic to the show.
Two things on that – you never get bored, doing that. A jazz slant keeps that freshness
Exactly ! you’re going off script a bit and playing in the moment
And like Miles Davis, you and I will find our way back to the theme..
Yeah! I think that’s the thing – there’s probably seventeen songs in the set, say and there’s probably four where I like to split things open and explore. It might be a minute’s worth or five minutes the next night, so that kinda depends upon what vibe is in the air and what kinda thing you’re chasing at that point. It’s important.
The audience – especially here. It’s a conneisseurs’ gig, this – will get caught up in those passages and know what’s happening. So it must be the right thing to do. Taking the ride with you. I’d rather have a few excursions – as I call them – in a show than two extra songs, if you sense the audience will enjoy it.
Me too. Breaking something down and exploring it ..now it can be a very vulnerable thing..but it’s a good thing. They are wondering where it’s going to go from here and you have their attention, for the ride. And how IS it going to get back? (Laughs) hey that’s an exciting thing for all in the room…
If you talk to Robben Ford or Steve Lukather about playing with Miles..well, he was never snobby about playing popular tunes of the day, knowing he could take them somewhere. Like Human Nature, Time After Time
We had eleven shows in a row and you are working the same basic set – now there’s a definitive magic about getting something to a consistent point, to where its muscle-memory is automated, y’know automatic – not in a bad way, but then you can turn your mind off that and ..create.
First time you drive a car anywhere you are a bit tentative, second time more confident, third time it’s easy. That’s how you get inside a song
Exactly! you’re not thinking, it’s embedded there. That’s probably the correct analogy, Pete
Say Your Prayers – there’s a touch of Bob Seger in that for me
Actually, I was about a week away from the studio booking time and I only had about half a record. And I was really freaked out. Writer’s block. Everything was booked and paid for. So, I called Jackson ( guitar player in the touring band – PS) Jackson Stokes, that is. Suggested he come over to see if we could write a tune, together. He did that and we really hit a stride. In about a day and a half we write that, Find Ourselves, Watch What You Say, Lost and Galaxies. So that was really fruitful as a session. It’s a little hard to discern exactly how each one came up, as he would sit there and play. Whenever something cool would appear organically then we would just hunt it down and refine it. That one did come pretty quick. The riff was pretty undeniable.
Galaxies…my notes say a Hendrixy, snakey feel..all it needs is a complementary vocal from Samantha Fish! Shattered Times, love the wah wah in that BUT there’s a kind of airiness in that which puts me in mind of Curtis Mayfield..
Love Curtis Mayfield! (Rolls back sleeve) There’s the tattoo of him right there! That’s how much I love Curtis…I have a real legitimate for soul music and equally for hard rock music
I played Pusher Man about twenty times when I bought the SuperFly soundtrack
Oh man, I so LOVE that record!
And what I like is what is NOT there..the eerie back-alley space
That indeed is totally painting the picture, in sound. I love the first album Curtis..Move On Up…
With the trousers? It’s Brave New World for me….made a phrase at a time after his accident crippled him. There’s a cut on there that haunts me – I’m Here, But I’m Gone. Vancouver – I love the low sax on that one. Is that the closest you get to Neil Young?
(Ponders) Well I am a huge fan of Neil Young, I’ve never thought about that song in that light…..it is one of the spookier tracks that I have done. Yes the violin and the sax, that musical passage is really one of my own favourite pieces. One of my proudest moments of producing that moment.
Hold Me is a complete contrast, has a New Orleans feel to it. Do you remember how that came about?
Yeah – it’s one those dumb things, y’know – it just wrote itself. I had been listening to a lot of R&B as we knew it. I thought the riff was almost countryish, it had a swing to it
Not many people can get that swing. Boz Scaggs can
(Enthusiastically) Now Boz Scaggs! He’s just great! I can see how that would fall in that realm. Hold Me is different from what else I have ever done. But at the same time it might just be the purest reflection of me and what I am about. I think as artists we are always searching for that. That most obvious point of purity.
Tell me about this Cure song you do here A Night Like This…if you had said to me what Cure song might Devon do I would have said A Forest.
(Exclaims) That’s the first Cure song I ever covered!! Way before I was ever known nationally let alone internationally! I played that song live from ’92 to ’98…
That was just a guess!
In every show! As a statement. So that was a good call! I thought about it for this record but the atmosphere of Night Like This seemed to fit, all round.
A lot of the recorded sounds are over-modulated for me ears – and I am an FX man, rarely play straight even acoustic..thanks, Michael Hedges..
Yeah, many are..but I discovered The Cure for myself when I was about 12 and so to be able to do that was really meaningful for me. A lot of Americans write The Cure off as being a 1908’s flash-in-the-pan whatever and they don’t really see the depth of the music. They view Robert Smith’s voice as being whiney – so how cool to have one of his compositions done in a soul voice! THAT makes it a completely different thing..
Have you heard The Mechanics? West Country band, here
No! Please send me something on email…