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Published: 2011/05/13
by Brandon Findlay

Warm In The Wintertime: Devon Allman and his Honeytribe

Photo by Jennifer Coleman/Digital

To state that the national touring circuit is in flux is a bit like a genius noting the sun sets west of here. But when a new promotional company starts bringing quality touring acts into the upper Midwest in late winter, one has to wonder if any geniuses applied. Or, perhaps said promoters, sly like foxes, realized that such a time was perfect for launching a new endeavor: less competition than when weather is nicer and bodies would rather be outside; more acts are struggling to pick up gigs en route to bigger destinations, letting you score talent for a better price; and serves as an excellent opportunity to bring some Technicolor to the bleak midwinter, banking loyalty in lieu of fair-weather fandom. Foxy indeed.

Thus began the auspicious endeavors of “Big Red Dog Promotions“, and snaring Devon Allman’s Honeytribe proved wise. Able to shift gears between the various blues back roads and jamband highways that treat his artistic pedigree as a roadhouse oasis, Allman’s power trio- bassist George Potsos and Gabriel Strange on drums- bring a particularly spiked punch to the party. A party kicked off, ala his sophomore album Space Age Blues, with “Could Get Dangerous”, a wah-heavy, minor-key blast with a ZZ-inspired breakdown and tough Les Paul-sounds straight out of the gates .

It is immediately noticed that Devon, though the son of Gregg, has a physical and musical sympathy with his late uncle Duane as well. For whatever that is worth, his own playing is definitely post-90’s inspired, and not unnaturally. Turning 39 this year, Allman appears quite comfortable in his own musical skin, and past his bloodline, one can hear sound-strains that time has curiously forgotten. A clear-cut effort, so it seems, has been concerted to be individual of the automatic expectations the group has doubtlessly faced.

Potsos and Strange help in that regard as well, with the occasionally-chorused bass informed by Jaco Pastorius, and drumming that is straighter-if-harder than Jaimoe & Butch. A trio of any variety is a fine art, with space that must be full one moment, purposefully vacant the next, and a fluid balance of power. Allman may be the captain, but a captain is only as good as his crew. And so continued “Mercy Mercy,” with Potsos using nearly the entire neck and Strange hammering right alongside. Allman went to the wah again, but made sure to take it somewhere slightly different- intentional variety helps a trio run smooth.

“Midnight Rider” was extended and interesting in that the younger Allman is strikingly separate of his father’s sound. Serving as a nice homage, the cover strategically allows the bandleader to keep one foot planted in the good-time vibrations of a storied past, and the other firmly pushing forward into his own tales of the unknown. “When I Call Home” was a breath of fresh air, and all relaxed; the long, melodic guitar solo lines led into a bass solo that drove home the Jaco-ness that was hinted at earlier, complete with chorused harmonics and a more sophisticated scalar frame of mind. A nice movement beyond the staid boundaries of what mainstream blues-rock has become, without losing too many ears or hearts along the way.

Perhaps the most jamfest- friendly track of the set, “Insh’allah”- literally “God willing”- is a bright sign for Allman’s composing future. While the Les Paul->Marshall rig is legendary, he milked his speedy, stinging vibrato against creamy, exotic note choices; Potsos and Strange reacted accordingly, and this became the first real ‘conversation’ of the night- where the outcome was telling of a more equal investment by all three. A highlight if only for the simple virtue of being different, it appeared that the crowd started to delve deeper with the band from here on.

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