Young Blood & Old Ways
Devon Allman’s all-star RSB loads into the Moody
By Margaret Moser, 11:07AM, Mon. Dec. 31, 2012
“I’ve played with my band at Antone’s, and I’m originally from Corpus – born and raised.” So begins Devon Allman’s story as standard bearer to the one of rock’s great dynasties. The younger Allman returns to Austin on Wednesday at the Moody Theater with Cyril Neville in the Royal Southern Brotherhood – on the bill with John Hiatt and his father Gregg Allman.
That’s quite the auspicious bill, melding generations, genes, genres, and family styles that separately and together shaped music for a half-century.
The Nevilles came up in the streets of New Orleans, blazing the path between tribal and rock with a jazz-funk punch. Gregg and Duane Allman emerged from Georgia by way of Florida in the early Seventies, wielding double trouble keyboards and guitar set off by spectacular vocals.
The Royal Southern Brotherhood – Allman, Neville, Mike Zito, Yonrico Scott, and Charlie Wooton – spent most of 2012 on tour with their self-titled CD, playing across 35 states and a dozen countries.
“We’re haven’t played Texas and we’re psyched,” enthuses Allman.
“The concept was to have a little Allman flavor and a little Neville flavor. It was kind of a mash-up of me and Cyril and Mike Zito. My manager managed us all, and it sounded good and looked good on paper, but if we didn't have good songs and weren’t a cohesive group that played together, it wasn’t going to go anywhere.
“It became something special.
“I never did co-writes before, but the first step in seeing if this would work was to get Cyril to send a bunch of lyrics over and see if any of them moved me to pick up a guitar. They did, so the next step was to get together and jam. We went down to New Orleans Jazz Fest and holed up in studio writing and playing. It happened fast.”
Allman, who calls St. Louis home, likes the challenge of finding the Royal Southern Brotherhood’s place in contemporary music.
“The blues is at an interesting point, because as much as the purists love the Chicago and Delta styles, it evolves – like the way Stones rocked it out. Like ‘Start Me Up.’
“It’s always been spun off course, and it’s such a beautiful thing.
“It rubs me the wrong way when the purists say that’s not blues. Wait a second – that’s a 1-4-5 blues progression, soulful singing, and blues lead guitar. That’s blues to me.
“We’re lucky to be in that era of blues-based music, and as long as it’s in there somewhere, it’s blues, baby. I still love Lightnin’ Hopkins and Howlin’ Wolf, but I love what the Stones and Hendrix did with it.
“I love Gary Clark Jr.’s new stuff. I’m into all the tributaries that come off that main river of blues.
“It’s a celebration of life. So many people have a misconception of blues: ‘I don’t want to sit in a bar and listen to sad-ass music.’
“No. It’s exorcising the demons, getting through the relationship, being done with work.
“Some of it’s heart-wrenching, but it’s life-affirming.”