Devon Allman – Ragged & Dirty (Ruf Records) review
His best album to date – an instant classic
Devon Allman spent the first years of his career running from his lineage (Gregg Allman is his father). But, with 2013’s Turquoise, he learned to finally embrace it. His latest record, Ragged & Dirty, is not only his finest work to date, it’s so good, it stands up to some of the best work of his dad’s band, the Allman Brothers.
Allman left his comfy Southern confines to record this new disc in Chicago with a group of studio aces, led by drummer/producer Tom Hambridge. The results are staggering good – Hambridge understands that at the heart of every great Chicago blues record is a great guitar sound, and boy does he get it, with just enough grit. Allman’s playing has improved immensely in just a short time – take the opener, a blues stomper, “Half the Truth,” for proof. “Can’t Lose ‘Em All” is one of the many highlights: led by a twin harmony guitar, it sounds like a great lost Brothers’ track (actually written by songwriting pro Lee Roy Parnell), it features some great singing as well.
Of the tracks written by Allman, “Back to You,” a slow burner with the Hammond organ up front in the mix, is particularly fine. The real surprise of the record is a soul blues cover of the Spinners’ “I’ll Be Around.” With a rhythm guitar taking the place of the organ on the original, slide guitar flourishes, and great background vocals from Wendy Moten, Allman actually elevates this track and makes it own.
The show stopper is “Midnight Lake Michigan,” a nine-minute brooding instrumental where Allman showcases some of the most passionate fretwork of his entire career. For as long as it is, you still don’t want it to end. It’s goosebumps good, and a real wakeup call for people to take his playing seriously.
There are several, more popular blues-rock musicians who have never put out an album this good. Here’s hoping this is the one that breaks it wide open for Devon Allman. If you love guitar heavy blues, you’ll dig it. —Tony Peters