PURCHASE/STREAM BLESS YOUR HEART
The Allman Betts Band has released their impressive sophomore album Bless Your Heart. The band recorded at Muscle Shoals Sounds Studio on two-inch tape, just as they did with their debut, Down To The River. The band enlisted veteran producer Matt-Ross Spang (Jason Isbell, Margo Price, John Prine and Elvis Presley) who also produced Down To The River. Bless Your Heart shows the band stretching their musical legs. Making it quite apparent that they have gelled into a tour de force. The musical themes in their latest effort hit on everything from serious and deeply personal themes, to light-hearted music that will make you want to boogie.
Over the summer, The Allman Betts Band released two singles – “Magnolia Road” the tie-dyed contender for summer festival favorite. A semi-autobiographical lyric shared by Betts and Allman, ironically this is the only song on the album with band collaborator Stoll Vaughan as its sole author. Vaughan wrote the song alone, though namechecking detailed parts of Betts’ and Allman’s life, respectively. Musically evokes the group’s affection for The Band and the Grateful Dead. And, “Pale Horse Rider,” the track opens ominously, quickly evolving into a dark and dense rumbler accentuated by Allman’s emotive and ghostly wordless chorus and a thunderous, expansive outro. It’s an unbridled storm of guitars centered on a Betts riff evoking the spirit of Neil Young’s Crazy Horse and modern counterpart, My Morning Jacket. Written, in part, in Baton Rouge, LA., it portends an album of explorative song structure.
The album release comes with much anticipation. Wall Street Journal calls it a mature, diverse set of songs that better establishes its own Americana-rooted sound.” And Grammy.com says “their latest double album helps cement their own identity while also honoring their past.” In July, the band made their national TV debut in July on CBS This Morning’s Saturday Sessions, and they have played a handful of well-received drive-in and live streaming concerts. Tower Records Pulse! observes that with the new album, The Allaman Betts is truly “a band blasting off.”
When The Allman Betts Band released Down to the River in June of 2019, the debut album represented not only the first time the group had recorded together but, in fact, the first time the seven-piece ensemble had ever played together. If Down to the River was the sound of the band’s combustible sparks igniting, then Bless Your Heart is their bonfire, built for the summer of 2020 and beyond; a double-album follow-up fueled by road-forged camaraderie and telepathic musical intensity, vibrantly reflecting the individual and collective experiences of these seven, all drawing inspiration from the band’s symbolic hometown- a place Devon Allman calls “the United States of Americana.”
A conflagration of influences and invention, confidence and ambition, Bless Your Heart captures a vast, panoramic scope throughout a baker’s dozen of modern rock. Ragged and stomping. Heady and frayed. Soaring and scorching. Generational and genteel. West Coast scenes and Gulf Coast shores. Gateways of the Midwest and swamplands of Florida. Wyoming’s Big Sky. New York’s Big Apple. Chicago’s Broad Shoulders.
Over a week’s time, they recorded 13 songs at the legendary Muscle Shoals Sound Studio on 2-inch tape, just as they did with Down to The River. In addition to the time in Muscle Shoals, Bless Your Heart saw additional tracking in Memphis and St. Louis. Within the eclectic repertoire are the familiar: stacks of guitars; electric, acoustic, and slide; a throttling, percussive rhythm section. And the fresh: Bassist and singer Berry Duane Oakley’s ABB vocal debut on his original song (“The Doctor’s Daughter”); Allman’s baritone vocal channeling Johnny Cash (“Much Obliged”); Betts extending the legendary family legacy of incendiary instrumentals (“Savannah’s Dream”). They tapped friends, as well, such as Jimmy Hall, Shannon McNally, Art Edmaiston, Susan Marshall, and Reba Russell for guest contributions. Then, emerged with an undeniable achievement of an album (what sophomore jinx?) worthy of its winking, unabashedly Southern title.
“I think we definitely challenged ourselves, pushed ourselves artistically, and widened the spectrum on all levels. We wanted something that was a little more sweeping. A deeper experience,” says Betts.Says Allman, “I hope what people hear on Bless Your Heart is a band that’s having a love affair with being a band.”