September 20, 2020 – Way back in 1971, The Allman Brothers Band pretty much created the Southern Rock style of music with their release of their album “Live at the Fillmore East.” It was primarily blues based but they also mixed in elements of jazz and latin music. Their two-part guitar harmonies and bluesy slide guitar passages became standards of the new genre. Many bands in the seventies followed in their footsteps including The Marshall Tucker Band, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Black Oak Arkansas, The Outlaws and into early eighties with Molly Hatchet, Blackfoot, Ram Jam and others. Southern rock seemed to die off in the eighties as rock fans turned more to Hard Rock and Heavy Metal – even Molly Hatchet admittedly altered their style of Rock to a more aggressive sound. By the mid-eighties southern rock was pretty much forgotten about. Only Lynyrd Skynyrd and The Allmans carried on, mainly touring and playing their greatest hits while not releasing any noteworthy new songs for the most part.
Almost single-handedly, The Allman Betts Band is creating a southern rock revival. As mentioned earlier in the article “The Allman Betts Band – Success is in Their Genes”, this band, led by three sons of the Allman Brothers Band members carry on the tradition their fathers started. Devon Allman, Duane Betts and Duane Berry Oakley have assembled a collection of songs with that same southern style while at the same time putting their own stamp on it. Their debut album – 2019’s “Down to the River” proved a strong effort and showed their songwriting talents in addition to paying tribute to the Allmans style of music. This year’s effort – “Bless Your Heart” adds to that excellence if but in a slightly more mellow forging.
The new songs on this album run the gamut from up tempo rock (“King Crawler”), bluesy (“Carolina Song”, “Congratulations”) and rockabilly (“Ashes of my Lover”) as well as Jazz (“Savannah’s Dream”.) There’s even a bit of fun as Allman seems to do his best Billy Gibbons voice imitation on “Much Obliged.” If you’re hoping to hear the classic two-part harmonies, they are there (“Pale Horse Rider”, “Rivers Run” and others.) Always partial to straight-ahead rockers, I particularly liked “Should We Ever Part” which with its pentatonic riff that reminds me of Thin Lizzy’s “Emerald.” Then there’s slide guitar maestro Johnny Stachela, who always seems to have something interesting to say with his guitar. His scorching lead on the rocker “Airboats and Cocaine” is just amazing. It was great to hear them include “Airboats” on this release as it is a fan favorite and the song they open up their live shows with more often than not.
It seems like they front loaded this album with songs that have hit potential. “Pale Horse Rider” is a given, “King Crawler” with its saxophone-riddled rhythms sound like it was borrowed from Bruce Springsteen’s E-Street Band, to good effect. “Airboats” has hit potential as well. Songs that follow are more Country and bluesy – “Southern Rain”, “Rivers Run” while the twelve minute “Savannah’s Dream” has a definite jazz feel to it.
Here’s the video for “Pale Horse Rider”:
“Airboats and Cocaine”:
All in all, this album is a bit more relaxed than last year’s “Down to the River” and maybe not as strong. Still, the great thing about this album is it forces you to listen to the whole thing as it is a blend of so many styles. If one particular song doesn’t grab you, hang on because the next one probably will. The recording itself also sounds great and this is not a fluke. The album was recorded on analog tape, which almost no one does anymore. The fact that it was recorded at the famous Muscle Shoals studio (like the original Allman Brothers Band recordings) doesn’t hurt either. It feels warm and friendly, letting the notes ring out with clarity and without that perceived “brickwalling” that makes everything recorded digitally sound compressed. My favorites on the album are “Pale Horse Rider”, “Airboats and Cocaine”, “Crawler” and “Southern Rain.” I would suggest you put this on and listen to it in the background while you’re working, barbecuing or doing just about anything. It doesn’t impede on what you’re doing, it just blends into the background.
Good stuff, guys. Keep them coming. See you on tour.
Did you like any of the songs in the videos? Which one(s)?