The Allman Betts Band’s second album, due out Aug. 28, is titled Bless Your Heart. “That’s just a funny tongue-in-cheek southern thing,” said Duane Betts of the title. “It’s kind of sassy tongue-in-cheek.
“I think everyone may have their own meaning for it, as to why we named it that. I remember my grandmother on my dad’s side was southern and I’d go over there and she’d be cooking fried chicken and collard greens and say, ‘bless your heart,’ kind of sarcastically, like they don’t know anything, but not derogatory. Or you can say it literally. It can be taken either way.”
There’s no denying the lineage of the Allman Betts Band. Singer-guitarists Betts and Devon Allman are the sons of the Allman Brothers Band’s Dickey Betts and Gregg Allman, respectively, while bassist Berry Duane Oakley is the son of the ABB’s Berry Oakley. (Also among the band’s seven members is New Jersey’s own John Ginty, on keyboards.) But let there be no mistake: They are their own entity, wrapped up in a blanket of influences that includes their famous fathers as well as other classic rock and blues artists.
Bless Your Heart was recorded in Muscle Shoals, Ala. “It turned out really excellent and we’re excited for people to hear it,” said Betts. “We did our first record there. We liked it and figured, ‘Why change it if it worked the first time?’ We used the same producer — Matt Ross-Spang from Memphis, Tenn. — and we went straight to tape again.”
The material, though, “is a lot different,” he said. “I think we took a lot more chances and it shows a lot of growth as far as the spectrum of influences and the overall body of work on this second record.”
He called the album “a powerful experience. It’s sweeping, it’s vast. There’s a really wide spectrum of influences … as to how it differs from the first record … the first record had really good ingredients, it was well made, it showed that we were true to our heritage, so to speak. But this one is that and also branches off in many other directions and shows a lot of other different colors and influences. We love a lot of different stuff. We love George Harrison, so we should have some stuff that sounds like that.”
After their highly successful debut album, Down to the River, the band was looking forward to showcasing this one. But then the pandemic hit.
The pandemic “could’ve happened at the start of making the record, and that would’ve been a real bummer,” said Betts. “You can look at it like, man, that’s a good thing that we got our record done before everything was shut down.
“It’s just kind of the situation we’re all in, but what makes it a little easier is to know that nobody can tour and even if you could, it’s just not a good idea now, with what’s going on. We’re all kind of in the same boat. It’s a little frustrating, but we know we’ll be able to tour at some point. It’s a little unorthodox to put out a record and then start a tour several months later, or however many months later. We’ll see how it goes; we’re taking it month by month.
“There’s other ways. People can still hear the music and you can do live streams. There’s other avenues to get it out there. When we do go back on tour, it’s going to be really exciting. It’ll be odd, but it will be a great feeling.”
The first single, “Magnolia Road,” came out in June. “It’s a song written by our good friend Stoll Vaughan, who we write quite a bit with. He wrote it by himself, actually, which is somewhat ironic because it’s somewhat semi-autobiographical. He’s really good at that. It’s a really good feeling tune. It has a summery, festival, Allman Brothers/Grateful Dead kind of thing a little bit, but then the next tune we released in July (‘Pale Horse Rider’) had a totally different feel, so we’re excited about that, too.”
So, how exactly did the Allman Betts Band come together?
“We’ve known each other for a while,” said Betts. “Devon was going on tour. I had just done my first solo record and he invited me to come out as an opening act and then jam together. We just wanted to see what would happen and feel it out, and then we started writing, and that led to the first record, which we put out and toured on, last year.
“So yeah, it just kind of came together. We’d talked about it on and off over the years. It was the timing of it and it just felt natural, like an organic next step in our careers and everybody’s career.
“When we formed the band, we put our heads together to put together a really great band — people we felt were suited to be in this band — and it’s been fun touring around the world. Obviously this was before everything got shut down, but every week it seemed like there was a new height reached, it seemed like a new musical highlight. So it is really going great, and we can’t wait to get back out there.”
Since they can’t do that just yet, Betts is going to use some of his time to reconnect with loved ones and even himself, to a degree.
“Devon has been doing a lot of live streams and I’ve been putting tunes up on Instagram and Facebook. Every now and then I’ll do a tune, just sitting on my couch. You take what the universe will give you. It’s not like it’s this huge bummer and an ‘Oh, why me?’ situation. Obviously this is what’s happening, this is what the universe wants, and we have time off. We have worked so hard over the last couple of years, touring constantly, that I think it might do a lot of people some good having the time off, personally.
“When something like this happens, you spend time with your family, get in touch with nature, you write songs. I’ve been writing more than I would if I were on a bus with 12 dudes, or in soundcheck or in a dressing room with three dudes. … I have a lot of space and time to write. So, there’s always something good that can come from something that is perceived as bad. Obviously, nobody wants to be in the situation we’re in, but you can definitely turn it into a positive in other avenues.
“There’s stuff on the horizon … nobody knows when touring is going to open up again but we can’t control that. I’m not really that worried about it, I’m trying to stay mellow, take care of myself, spend time with my puppy and my wife, go hiking and enjoying life.
“There’s a lot of people who need help, too, don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying it’s a good situation that’s going on now. That’s kind of my mental approach to the whole thing. It’s really out of our control, and the last thing that I want to do is try and push it and go out there too early. I’d rather wait until it feels really good and then go out there and start playing shows for folks again. I think that’s where a lot of people stand with it. Devon does these live streams and raises money for our touring crew, so God bless that. There are avenues to get some folks taken care of during this off time, while we can’t work.”
For more about the band and Bless Your Heart, visit allmanbettsband.com.
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