Devon Allman started Honeytribe in the late 90’s and put the band on hiatus to enjoy his son’s formative years in the early 2000’s. By 2005, he put the band back together and hasn’t looked back since. Honeytribe has released two studio albums and toured the world. But Allman didn’t stop there. In 2011 he joined forces with Mike Zito and Cyril Neville to form Royal Southern Brotherhood. Together with Grammy winner Yonrico Scott on drums and Charlie Wooton on bass they recorded an album and hit the road in 2012. The band has been nominated for the Blues Music Award’s Rock Blues Album Of The Year category. When Devon Allman decided to make his solo debut, not surprisingly he got some help from his band mates. Yonrico Scott plays drums and Mike Zito co-wrote a pair of tunes for the record. The result is Turquoise; a personal, soul-searching record full of honest emotion and engaging music.
Turquoise begins with a great driving song, which is fittingly titled “When I Left Home.” Like many tracks on the record, this one is autobiographical and looks back on the last 20 years on the. Devon is accompanied by Luther Dickinson, from North Mississippi Allstars, whose slide guitar floats through the song like a mirage in the heat on lonesome stretch of desert highway. The song looks forward and back, with a sense of wonder and hope. Devon’s lyrics show a maturity for which Allman credits his role as a father, which he also references in this song and others on Turquoise. This one song alone is worth the price of the disc.
“Time Machine” is another look into the past. This one is more mellow and wistful. Its stripped down arrangement, understated rhythm, and expressive singing make this a poignant track. Time is a theme that runs through Turquoise. Whether it’s looking back at time gone by, marking time passed, taking some time to recharge, or just wishing there was more time, the listener gets the sense that Allman wants to make the most of the time he has even as he laments the need for more. It has been said that time is the fire in which we burn, and on “There’s No Time” Allman stokes the fire by channeling his inner Carlos Santana, playing some incendiary guitar lines that light up the smoldering remains.
Devon Allman’s Ruf Records label mate Samantha Fish makes an appearance for the lone cover on Turquoise – “Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around.” This Stevie Nicks/Tom Petty duet is slowed down a bit and the combination of Allman and Fish on vocals make it a little bluesier than the original. Although they don’t reinvent the wheel with it, their version is full of passion and fire and is simply fantastic. More importantly, it doesn’t sound out of place on Turquoise which only serves to emphasize the quality of Devon Allman’s songwriting.
His talent comes through in spades on “Homesick” and “Turn Off The World” which are world weary partners. In “Homesick” he’s on the road longing to be home, and when he gets there he wants to “Turn Off The World” and find a place to wash off the rock & roll. He’s looking for a peaceful beach to be cleansed by Mother Nature before starting all over again. It’s a vicious cycle that ensnares many of us, musician or otherwise. Sometimes it seems like there’s always work, work, work while life is passing us by. Allman reminds us that it’s important to take some time to take a break and enjoy the world while we’re here.
Turquoise was recorded in about 10 days, capturing a moment in time and preserving it forever. It was a moment when Devon Allman decided not to labor over the music, he let it flow from his heart to his hands and out. He wrote the songs recorded them and moved on. In doing so he created a record that sounds fresh, captivates the listener, and gets better every time you hear it. Devon Allman pours his heart out on Turquoise. It’s in the songs, the sounds and tones. It’s in his bones. The songs are sharp and succinct. There are no wasted notes. He makes every bit count and we’re all the better for it.
It’s interesting that in this age of social media, artists are able to connect with their fans on Facebook and Twitter and some use it simply as a promotional tool, but Devon Allman takes the time to make his connection more personal. He shows pictures of his son, his siblings and sometimes his dad. He comes off as a regular guy, albeit an eminently talented regular guy, and if you know this about him it makes the music on Turquoise all the more visceral. You know he means what he’s singing. You know how much he loves his son, he misses his girlfriend; he misses the simple things like local food and favorite hangouts. But he drives on, making music that pours from his soul. Sure he has a famous pedigree, but he discovered music on his own. His talent and drive are his alone. He could have traded on the Allman name and probably would have sacrificed respect; yours and his. Instead we can believe he is earnest and honest. He made his own way and has made it known he is not his father or his uncle. He is Devon Allman and he writes damned good songs, sings from his heart and plays the Hell out of the guitar. If you like those qualities in a musician you’ll love Turquoise. I do.