Devon Allman – Ride or Die (review)

Devon Allman – Ride or Die (Ruf Records) review

Allman delivers a solid third solo album

It’s been said that you can’t properly sing the blues until you’ve gotten your heart broken.    Well, Devon Allman is fresh off a breakup, and he’s channeled those emotions into one of his finest albums to date, Ride or Die.

The disc opens with the blistering “Say Your Prayers”; propelled by big drums and a sinister guitar line, Allman sings of riding out a storm, admitting that “the sunshine will becoming back” but until then “keep yourself safe, hiding away.”  There’s a big phat wah wah-heavy guitar solo too.

Things quickly shift gears for the soulful (and more optimistic) “Find Ourselves,” featuring tasty sax from Ron Holloway, and an excellent chorus.    If there’s one thing that stands out on this new record, it’s that many of the tracks have a heavy funk overtone, like “Galaxies” (where the album’s title, Ride or Die, comes from).  There’s an extended, emotionally charged guitar solo near the end.

Even when Allman scales things back, as on the acoustic “Lost,” there’s still a somber tone, and a crying solo. “Vancouver” is where he lays all his pain on the table, lamenting about the start of his relationship and how he’d change so many things, if he could do them all over again.  The addition of violins adds another voice echoing the sadness.

We get a respite from the darkness with the bouncy “Hold Me,” which features some great piano from Kevin McKendree. The album’s best track is buried near the end – the jangly “Live From the Heart” is propelled by a 12-string guitar and shows that Allman is more than capable of writing a catchy hook.

Allman has made it a practice of putting at least one cover song on his albums – previously he’s tackled Stevie Nicks’ “Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around” and the Spinners’ “I’ll Be Around,” but the Cure’s “A Night Like This” seems like a choice out of left field.  Yet, he gives the track some guitar bite and the lyrics seem to be right at home with the darker material surrounding it.

Probably the best thing about Ride or Die is that it sounds like Devon Allman – meaning that he’s found his voice and a style that suits him perfectly.  Despite the heavy subject matter, Allman has crafted memorable songs that stick with you long after you hit the stop button.  —Tony Peters