The Allman-Betts Band | Bless Your Heart | (BMG)
3 1/2 out of 5 stars
This relatively quick follow-up to 2019’s debut from these two Allman Brothers Band offspring (actually three with bassist Berry Duane Oakley) finds the expansive seven piece capitalizing on the music of both their first release and of course their dads’ legendary outfit. They remain a little boxed in by the legacy of their last names but continue to push those boundaries for original material that both honors and expands the heritage they are inextricably tied to.
Bassist Oakley takes lead vocals and co-writes the spacey “The Doctor’s Daughter” which gives the front duo another voice and songwriter to rely on, even if his first song falls on the plodding, and at over eight minutes, overlong side. There’s enough slide guitar driven tracks such as “Carolina Song” and the VERY Allman’s-inspired blues rock of “Should We Ever Part” (third guitarist Johnny Stachela handles the Duane-styled slide) to keep ABB fans satisfied. Betts’ higher pitched voice contrasted with Allman’s tougher growl also mimics their fathers’ similarly sounding singing.
While a few tracks like the opening single “Pale Horse Rider” bring a tougher, darker Crazy Horse edge, not enough of the other dozen songs beckon you back for more spins. Allman hits his stride on the melancholy ballad “Southern Rain,” one of disc’s highlights. Tunes like Betts’ Southern rocking “King Crawler,” “Magnolia Road” and “Airboats and Cocaine” however are pleasant and rugged enough even if they feel more like a good band borrowing licks from the Allman Brothers. Nowhere is that more evident than on the extended 12 minute jazzy instrumental “Savannah’s Dream” that even the advance notes say aims to emulate the elder Betts’ “High Falls.” The younger Betts’ dramatic Spaghetti Western “Ashes of My Lovers,” aided enormously by Jimmy Hall’s harp, points to a direction that’s worth exploring further.
Overall, the playing and singing are well above average, which helps put across even the weakest material like the closing “Congratulations” ballad, the only non-original. Surely cutting a few lukewarm selections that feel undercooked and lengthen the disc’s playing time to an unwieldy 72 minutes would have made this a stronger example of what these guys are aiming to accomplish.
Combining the best songs here with those on the group’s debut while adding the ABB chestnuts that put the butts in the seats (whenever concerts start back again) would create an impressive live set though, which is where this act seems most at home.
Like fathers like sons.
Dig their tunes? Get them now from the Allman Betts Band website.