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Album Review

Devon Allman's Honeytribe hails from St. Louis, MO. Torch is the band's American debut, though a live European offering is available from the band's website. Yep, his dad's Gregg Allman, but Honeytribe has its own sound. Having grown up partly in Corpus Christi, and later in Missouri, Devon Allman and band's sound owes very little to the Allman Brothers. It's a space age jam band blues outfit that has bits and pieces of soul in the mix but the real deep edge is hard rock. Allman is a solid guitarist and has a decent voice, but he does not possess the phrasing chops of his old man; then again, it did take Gregg a long time to become the kind of singer he is now. Torch feels like a debut album. It has many solid moments, such as the burning instrumental "Mahalo," that feels like Bob Dylan's "All Along the Watchtower" played by the Santana band without words. The sense of drama is heightened by drummer/percussionist Mark Oyarzabal's taste and presence, and also by Jack Kirkner's Hammond B-3. The cover of Bob Marley's "No Woman, No Cry" is credible, but adds nothing to the original (why do so many people think that they can cover this song?) but it does feature guitar wizard Pedro Arevalo's tasty licks and slide. "When I Call Home" is one of those bluesy soul ballads that feels right inside a jam band. Allman's singing is what makes the tune. He is expressive, digs down deep into his belly for the lyric and lets it rip. His guitar work is beautiful and tasty but he keeps the song upfront. Again, Kirkner's organ is such a gorgeous tool in a tune like this, it floats and then grounds everything as well. The edgy hard rock of tracks like the title and "Perfect World" don't seem to work so well in the studio. Production is a problem because these cats seem to have to crank every instrument up to ten, leaving no space in the mix. There are a number of clichés here, too, such as the boogie blues "Heaven Has No Mercy," which sounds like a tune your average bar band would play at a biker road rally. The solo acoustic guitar piece, "511 Texas Avenue," is a nice relief from the bombast, and the album's closer "Nothing to Be Sad About," balances the big ringing guitars with acoustic-honky tonk-style piano and loose, back porch vocals, showcasing all the band has to offer quite nicely. Interestingly, Allman's blues guitar style owes more to Dickey Betts than it does late uncle Duane's but then, Betts has influenced plenty of the jam band generation pickers so it might just be coincidence. While Torch is not an overly impressive debut, it would be a mistake to write it, or the band off. There's room to grow and Honeytribe is surely on the right track.

Torch, Devon Allman's Honeytribe
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