There was no mystery about why Allman Betts Band’s 2019 debut, Down to the River, sounded like the work of a veteran group, though they had never played together as a unit before recording it.
While the band was new, the core members had a connection that stretched back before they were born. Co-leaders Devon Allman and Duane Betts are the sons of Gregg Allman and Dickey Betts, longtime dual front men of the Allman Brothers Band. Bassist Berry Oakley Jr.’s namesake father was the Hall of Fame group’s founding bassist.
Now, with a year of hardcore touring (interrupted only by the pandemic) under their belt, the seven-piece band takes a big step toward establishing their own Americana sound on their second album, Bless Your Heart.
“It’s a more experimental album,” says Oakley, who takes lead vocals on one song. “We felt comfortable going in different directions.”
The material displays a great breadth, with an instrumental that echoes Allman Brothers classics, as well as country tinges, a Rolling Stones-style rocker, a Pink Floyd-tinged ballad and textured layers of acoustic guitar and keyboards.
The material allows Allman, Betts and lead and slide guitarist Johnny Stachela to each stretch out and each have their moments in the spotlight.
“There’s plenty of space for everybody to express themselves,” Betts says. “It comes pretty naturally to decide who should play what on each tune. There’s a lot of solos that we’re all proud of, but this is a song record as well as a guitar record.”
Adds Allman, “We all got to stretch out on this one. I think it’s apparent when you listen to Bless Your Heart that we’re having a love affair with being in this band together.
“Me, Duane and Berry have a bond that goes back forever, but the seven of us are really a unit and we’re totally focused on establishing ourselves, marching forward and continuing our own body of work – world tours, records – just like our fathers did it back then. We have to make our own mark.”
- The Allman Betts Band's new album, Bless Your Heart, is out now via BMG.