Duane Betts, Devon Allman Detail The Songwriting With ‘Bless Your Heart’ Track-By-Track

Like fathers like sons? No, not quite.

Videos by American Songwriter

The expansive seven piece fronted by two Allman Brothers Band offspring (actually three with bassist Berry Duane Oakley, joining Duane Better and Devon Allman), the Allman Betts Band dropped its sophomore effort this week. The band continues to cut its own path, a path not intentionally to distance itself from the course navigated by their dads’ legendary outfit, but because it is the music they want to make.

With no intention of being a legacy band — or a tribute to what once was — the group is put together from musical similarity and interest and not last names. Friends first, largely because they grew up together — just like your friend group, except their dads were who they were.

Bless Your Heart comes with some similarity to the first effort but continues to elevate as the band evolves.

Among this set of tunes is “Magnolia Road,” a semi-autobiographical overview of Allman and Betts written, ironocally, by Vaughan alone, and a tie-dyed contender for summer festival favorite.  There is the album’s starter, “Pale Horse Rider,” ominously evolving into a dark and dense rumbler accentuated by an unbridled storm of guitars, evoking the spirit of Neil Young’s Crazy Horse and modern counterpart, My Morning Jacket.  

And “Ashes of My Lovers,” a mourning motif of romance and wreckage, inflected with trail-dusted harmonica complementing the cinematic Badlands spook.  Or “Airboats & Cocaine,” with its tongue firmly in its cheek, telling the Southern Gothic tale of a girl born into the wrong family and her guy regretting his incidental associations with the underbelly of swampland contraband, wrapped up in a loose, mid-tempo stinger.

Both Allman and Betts sat down to give American Songwriter a track-by-track of the album, which you can check out below. If you dig the tunes, get the new album on your favorite streaming service.

DA: I thought the almost vertigo-inducing descending guitar melody was so special when I first heard it.  I had every intention to write actual words for the refrain ….but I refrained.  (ahem)  It had a ghostly quality without words. 

DB: This one really rocks. We really shifted away from the “norm” here. I had the main descending riff and we just started bridging ideas. I love Devon’s dystopian story about this guy who seems to be a little lost. The no lyric chorus is a solid move here as well. Guitars for days.

DA: Man those gospel singers! I love the concept of burying an old version of yourself into the ground as you seek to become a better version of yourself.  But also, that your older self can always be a ghost out to try and fuck you over.  “like some Vincent Price, like some Dawn of the Dead…fingertips raise from the depths”  We all deserve a rebirth for those that do the re-work.

DB: A southern banger written on the tour bus in Charlotte, NC. This one gives me a strong feeling of hope. That yeah, none of us are perfect but we can get together and do this thing right. All about love in the end.

DA: Man what a gas.  We didn’t have a title.  But the refrain says “I know yo mad, cuz I stayed too long…I’ll get back to you if I have to crawl”.  So I said …. shit man what if you were like, the best of the dudes that crawl back to their lady after being a jerk face?  You’d be the KING CRAWLER.   Hot damn and amen.

DB: This tune originally had a slower “The Band “ feel and I hyped it up with the opening riff you now hear. A song basically about getting by somehow, someway and maybe pissing a few people off along the way.

DA: Duane’s best song yet IMHO. Makes me equal parts beam-with-pride on how accomplished he’s becoming and equal parts pissed off I didn’t write it my damn self. It’s captivating and Shannon McNally’s vocal cameo….? WhoooDoggie she takes that motherfucker over the top.  Just lovely.

DB: I had this idea in A minor that had a haunting western sound and a strumming pattern that reminded me of Roy Orbison.

The melody and the release had all come to me but I really didn’t have a solid story for the song. That’s when I played it for Stoll and we came up with the idea of leaving behind your wreckage. Lord knows we all have it.

Devon came up with the idea to have a female voice on it with me and boy am I happy he did because it turned out beautifully. Thanks to the lovely Shannon McNally. Glad we were able to get that howling harmonica from Jimmy Hall too.

DA: Our band in peak form.  Wonderful composition.   Lovely meandering.  Glorious 4th of July fireworks type ending ..but not the loud in-your-face kind…the peaceful off in the distance kind. 

DB: I had this ethereal melody dancing around in my head for some time. I finally decided I was going to write the damn thing so I did. It’s a roller coaster ride but at the end you should feel safe and sound.

The main melody reminded me of an experience I had had in a dream perhaps, and I have always loved the name Savannah. Thus, Savannah’s Dream….

DA: Man love that Duane and I both sing tandem lead vocals.  And what a funny story about a cat that falls for a chick from the WRONG family.  Everglade woman…yo just too rough.

DB: Man if you are going to play gritty rock n roll, play it like you mean it and I think we sure did on this one…. I love the title. I love the double lead vocal. I love Johnny’s outro slide solo. Well done boys.

DA: Last thing Pop said to me was: “I’m so fucking proud of you, son”  The southern “rain” is actually the tears that fell upon my cheeks taking that last walk down his driveway after he said those words …the very last time I saw him.   And how his energy still pays little visits here and there

DB: A personal song for Devon that touches on the loss of his parents. I love how this song has a bluesy texture but isn’t really a “blues song”. I really think the way the song builds is compelling and by the end, you are “in”. Devon’s vocals toward the end make me think he may have been listening to a little Roy Orbison. The outro solo captures the sentiment of the song to perfection. Well done Devon.

DA: Love the mellotron in this and Duane’s lyrics.  And a little ‘Brothers nod with the dual guitars is tasty and just enough. 

DB: Basically a song about that familiar, comfortable feeling we all long for in our memory. Inspired by my Grandmother’s house and surrounding property on the Manatee River in Parrish, Fl…

DA: Stoll Vaughan wrote this one.  Man, he does a great job of encapsulating quite a lot into a very small space lyrically….lots of mileage out of one simple line.  Basically, If he were part of a bank-robber gang, he’d be that cat, hours later at the secret clubhouse, that had fit the most cash into his bag..100%

DB: Stoll Vaughan brought this one in and we loved it. It has all of those good ingredients and a chorus you can sing for days, and we pretty much do!!! Stoll is so good at getting inside and helping tell “your” story. Yeah Stoll.

DA: A very frantic side of the band.  I’ll have a quad espresso with a side of desperate passionate pleas, …please. 

DB: This jam sounds like it could go off the tracks any second and thank god because that is exactly how it needed to sound. With the exception of the female background singers, this one was captured completely live. More great slide playing by Stachela.

DA: Floydian.  Deep.  Brother Oakley in fine fine form.  So much space.  Love this number.

DB: One of my favorites on the record. Berry really delivers the goods on this one, as they say. Very musical, very subtle, very powerful. A perfect example of what can happen when you “just let the tape roll”.

DA: A man and a woman and the revelation of a love that may not necessarily move mountains…. but can survive if mountains were to happen to move. 

DB: A really fun song to be a part of. I love the juxtaposition between classic country and the beauty of the intertwining, weeping guitars. The words are heartfelt yet cheeky in delivery which I also love. Good palette cleanser.

DA: A song for those that have flown the coop to go on to brighter days and a lament for those left behind.  Bravo, Cisco Adler for once again delivering us a lovely song. 

DB: The last song on the record.

A song that was brought in by our friend Cisco Adler at the last minute. A story I think we all can relate to. I think it reminded Devon of some of his friends back in Corpus Christi and he sang it like he meant it and then some.

If you dig the tunes, get the new album on your favorite streaming service.

Leave a Reply

Paul Benjaman and John Fullbright

Artists Share The Importance of the Tulsa Groove on ‘Back to Paradise: A Tulsa Tribute to Okie Music’