The freshly formed Allman Betts Band radiates classic rock, from the players in the group to the legendary Muscle Shoals studio where they recorded a new album.
Devon Allman teamed with Duane Betts to form the band after playing together on tour in the Devon Allman Project. Both are sons of famed musicians from The Allman Brothers Band — Devon’s father was keyboardist and vocalist Gregg Allman and Duane’s father was guitarist Dickey Betts.
“We met in 1989, so about 30 years ago,” Allman said. “It was the 20th anniversary tour of the Allman Brothers. We were kids. Over the years we’d bump into each other. We started to talk about joining forces three to four years ago (but) it never synced up; he’d be touring with a band or playing with a new band. I think we got a couple months of shows under our belts and I said, ‘Why don’t we try to write some songs, and if we don’t have any chemistry, no big deal.’ There was no pressure. There was no, ‘You have to.’ It was something we wanted to do.”
Allman wanted to produce a sound that rivaled that of their musical idols, including their fathers, and he believes Alabama’s famed Muscle Shoals studio added to that classic rock lineage.
“Knowing the history of Muscle Shoals, when we started writing for this album I knew we wanted something sonically that sounded classic right out of the gate,” Allman said. “I’d been messing with analog 2-inch tape instead of all the digital recording. (The digital recordings) lack that spirit and vibe and the punch. Once I got everybody on board (it) made the most sense to go somewhere (like Muscle Shoals).”
The problem was the famed studio, best known for recording classics by the Rolling Stones and Aretha Franklin, had turned into a museum and was essentially a tourist attraction. But they negotiated the logistics. The next step was to find a producer, and Matt Ross-Spang was the perfect fit. Ross-Spang, now 32, started his career as a teenager at legendary Sun Studios in Memphis before branching out as an independent producer/engineer.
“He was this younger cat that knew vintage gear,” Allman said. “We hit it off as friends. We continued to hang out and drink beers. When you start stacking up the deck, the classic sound and 2-inch tape, this cat would be perfect. He’s got a couple Grammys on his mantel. He would really respect the approach.”
The result is an album that Allman says is an “amalgam of classic rock with some jam band tendencies, R&B and Americana. It’s a pretty wide scope. Fans of the Stones and fans of Government Mule and The (Grateful) Dead and Willie Nelson should like it.”
The 2019 record also has Allman Brothers’ connections. Berry Oakley Jr., son of Allmans bassist Berry Oakley, plays on the album. Peter Levin (Gregg Allman’s Hammond B3 player) and keyboardist Chuck Leavell (Allman Brothers Band/Rolling Stones) are also featured.
And while the connections to the past are evident, Allman says the band is blazing its own trail.
“We’re absolutely making our own sound, even though that’s a classic sound,” he said.
“It’s a delicate balance, to pay homage to our families but it’s even more important to add to the history and make this record and the next record. People who walk away from our show realize we’re good in our own right.”
The Allman Betts Band plays the Flying Monkey Movie House and Performance Center, 39 S. Main St., Plymouth, at 7:30 p.m. Friday.
For ticket availability, go to flyingmonkeynh.com or call 536-2551.