Warm In The Wintertime: Devon Allman and his Honeytribe
Working the fresh tunes from his October 2010 release, “I’m Ready”, “Salvation”, and “Endless Diamond” continued to explore the blue-eyed soul, rock guitar, and R&B inflections that form the mirepoix of their Space Age soup du jour. “Torch”, the title track to the group’s 2006 debut, started to close out the 79-minute first set, with long jams, a Jaco->Cliff Burton-esque->”3rd Stone” bass interlude, and a satisfying bass/drums->drums->barnburner trio jam that really set up set two in appropriate fashion. Yet, before the band left the stage, a surprise “Purple Rain” took things to a different place. Recalling Etta James’ recent version as much as Prince’s original, ears were picqued and there was growing buzz among the crowd.
With buzz undiminished, Allman and Co. lit into a jam that turned into the lovely “Warm In The Wintertime”, again off the newest effort. Such a nice moment, however, was then upstaged slightly by the disappointing, dreaded announcement of “one more song left”. And no matter how fun the myriad teases were- “Cat Scratch Fever”, “Paranoid”, a full verse of “Stairway” and five others- the “One Way Out” that closed the show served to push the crowd away instead of reeling them in- the better it got, the more bittersweet the unexpected early end became. Perhaps a band member was sick, or there were extenuating circumstances, but the fact that the crowd was left to its own considerations did not work favorably for a trio winning plenty new fans that night. It was a slight tarnish on what was turning into a fantastic night, and though this complaint is meant to be taken in due perspective, less than two hours of tunes visibly disheartened the crowd. All of that made relevant, fans were more than eager to talk with the band, hit the merch table, and remained in generally high spirits.
Since then, Allman has continued to tour hard across the continental 48, including playing Duane’s recently rediscovered Goldtop during Beacon Run sit-ins, sharing the stage with fellow up-and-comers such as the Jamie McLean Band and welcoming beloved jam icons, such as John Popper at Wanee, on stage as the occasion arises.
In some ways, it’s easy to be wowed by the prowess of the band. Potsos and Allman can both play a tremendous amount of music and play it well. Strange is the Elmer’s that holds it all together. But the key lays in songs such as “Insh’allah” and “Warm In The Wintertime”, which surpass technique and juxtapose guitar heroics fitting of the Allman brand with a sincere, still-metamorphosing take on what blues-rock can mean.
Ben Harper once said, in paraphrase, that to play blues-rock well, you must be able to play both blues, and rock, individually well. And such dedication served the Brothers Allman- but this is a new generation, and for those who love to look back, at the expense of keeping eyes on the road ahead, the lack of truly deep blues- Chicago, Delta, or otherwise- may be a deterrent. Yet for those who can dance to the beat of a current drum, Allman’s effort recognizes the blues of his (fore)father(s), while accounting for his own passions, which is exactly how we got the Becks, Pages, and Hendrix’s of lore to begin with. And that is exciting- but the future is uncertain. It’s the rare lover of music that is willing to dive into the disturbed waters of creativity, swimming through the turbulence to simply enjoy the ride.
Such a music lover is the desire of any promoter, but such patrons must give necessary indulgence to promoters who are cropping up across the country (and world) to keep the blues and the roots alive. It is, perhaps, too strong an exhortation to ask that folks continually support the unknown, the untested, the unproven; yet, how can an artform advance, if no one is willing to leap in faith? Unplug from your own personal Matrix, get out the door, give something new a try, and expect a fair receipt from what you pay for. Be the catalyst that lets the cream rise to the top, and you will be rewarded with riches unknown- for they have yet to be created. Such is the ultimate benevolence of the arts, whether you’re Misters Allman, Potsos and Strange, or promoters like Scott Allen, Scott Long, Jen Taylor and the rest of the Big Red Dog gang. For these are the Space Age blues, for 21st Century Bill Grahams, rocking street-corner Fillmores.
I betcha the Fillmore was warm in the wintertime …
For more photographic Honeytribe love, check out this gallery.