The Allman Betts Band relishes their return to the road

The Allman Betts Band is back on the road for a few weeks to promote its latest album, "Bless Your Heart."
The Allman Betts Band is back on the road for a few weeks to promote its latest album, "Bless Your Heart."

Credit: Kaelan Barowsky

Credit: Kaelan Barowsky

The group will play a socially-distanced concert at the Coca-Cola Roxy.

Devon Allman is just waking up on a tour bus in Pennsylvania and that his actions are even a reality in 2020 is newsworthy.

“We might be the first band back on a tour bus. I don’t want to pat ourselves on the back, but I don’t know another band on their tour bus right now,” he says.

And how does it feel, despite the lurching that requires regaining proverbial sea legs?

“Amazing.”

The previous night, The Allman Betts Band played a socially distant concert in Connecticut, and Allman relished the jolt of being back onstage.

“Our (band) family has been apart for seven months, and it just feels so good to have everyone and our crew back together. The (fans) got loud and rowdy. It felt like a return to some kind of normalcy,” Allman said in a craggy, friendly voice.

The guitarist-singer — son of the late Gregg Allman and late Shelley Kay Jefts — is back on the road along with fellow guitarist-singer Duane Betts (son of The Allman Brothers Band guitarist Dickey Betts), bassist Berry Duane Oakley (son of The Allman Brothers Band’s late bassist Berry Oakley), guitarist Johnny Stachela, keyboardist John Ginty, percussionist R. Scott Bryan and drummer John Lum.

Devon Allman (left) and Duane Betts of the Allman Betts Band.
Devon Allman (left) and Duane Betts of the Allman Betts Band.

Credit: Kaelan Barowsky

Credit: Kaelan Barowsky

They’ll pull into the Coca-Cola Roxy Oct. 29 — the second limited capacity show at that venue since reopening in early October. It will mark the first indoor pandemic-era concert for The Allman Betts Band, and Allman is advocating cautiousness mixed with reality.

“Look, if you’re not feeling well, stay home. If you’re out in public and going to be close to someone, wear a mask just in case, even if you’re feeling fine,” he said. “Beyond that, I think it’s time to get people together and have some fun and start getting our togetherness back, our arts back, our spectator events back, from art museums to concerts to theater to sporting events. It’s important to ease back into normalcy.”

ExplorePhotos: Allman Betts Band at Atlanta’s Buckhead Theatre in 2019

The band, which will also play a drive-in concert at the Macon Centreplex Coliseum on Nov. 20, has reason to be enthusiastic about being back onstage. In late August, they released their sophomore effort, “Bless Your Heart,” and missed the “blitzkrieg touring” that would normally accompany a new album.

While the band’s record label offered to hold the release of the 13-track record until spring 2021, Allman was eager to unleash the new songs — a muscular marriage of melody and the Southern rock and blues inherent in their bloodlines — because of their musical heft.

“I think there’s a lot of diversity on this record. It shows that the band is a real band with a lot of growth under its belt,” he said.

The “Bless Your Heart” title is a nod toward the Southern theme that Allman felt was prevalent on the record, especially given songs titled “Southern Rain” (written about Allman’s last encounter with father Gregg), “Savannah’s Dream” and “Carolina Song.” The name also connotes the playful side of the band, presenting the Southern adage with a bit of tongue-in-cheek smirk as well the heartfelt meaning behind it.

Among the standouts is “Magnolia Road,” the rare song not written by Allman and Betts, but by Stoll Vaughan, who captured the biographies of his two friends in vivid lyrics filled with personal details. (The animated video is both sweet and poignant, and includes a small nod to Gregg Allman.)

“He has a very keen sense of storytelling,” Allman, 48, said. “I think Stoll was really good getting into our vibe and writing something we probably wouldn’t have written ourselves.”

The Allman Betts Band will play a socially distanced concert at the Coca-Cola Roxy on Oct. 29, 2020.
The Allman Betts Band will play a socially distanced concert at the Coca-Cola Roxy on Oct. 29, 2020.

Credit: Gilbert Lee

Credit: Gilbert Lee

It isn’t the first time The Allman Betts Band has tapped a close insider for input.

Chuck Leavell shared his talents with the next generation as well. He played piano with The Allman Brothers Band from 1972-76, including their bestselling “Brothers and Sisters” record.

On The Allman Betts Band’s first record, “Down to the River” — recorded, as “Bless Your Heart” was, at Muscle Shoals Sound Studio in Alabama — the guys tapped Leavell to perform on the aptly named, “Good Ol' Days.”

“It’s just beautiful to see those guys come together,” Leavell said recently. “The first time I played (Allman Brothers Band classic) ‘Jessica’ with Duane (Betts) blew me away – he just killed it. To some degree, he comes by it naturally since his dad wrote the song. But he’s certainly inherited a gene from his dad and is carrying on in a wonderful way. Devon also has such a great thing going and has had his own fans for some time now.”

Leavell, whom Allman refers to as “one of those cats who is the best at what he does,” remains at the ready if the current regime wants his expert playing.

“It was a privilege to work on their first record, and if they call me back, no problem — I’m there for them,” he said.

Over the years, Allman has stayed engaged in several musical projects — The Dark Horses and Honeytribe in the 1990s and solo outings and the Royal Southern Brotherhood in the last decade. But since officially forming The Allman Betts Band in 2018 with childhood friends Betts and the soon-after-recruited Oakley, he’s found a new comfort zone, as well as an agreeable business partnership with Betts.

“We’re not these bright-eyed kids anymore, but we’re not old. We’re right at our peak,” Allman said. “I like to say that I couch-surfed for 20 years, and now I finally bought a house. And I really don’t want to leave this house. It feels like home, especially with Duane and Berry. While my friends were taking their test to get into college, I went to Allman Brothers Band University, arguably the best school, specifically, for what I wanted to do. It feels better than ever now, and we’re more grateful than ever.”

CONCERT PREVIEW

The Allman Betts Band

8 p.m. Oct. 29. $36-$50; ticket sales are online only. (Visit cocacolaroxy.com for guidelines about social distancing and wearing masks.) Coca-Cola Roxy, 800 Battery Ave. SE, Atlanta. 1-800-745-3000.

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