Devon Allman's Turquoise Soul
"It's rich. It's got depth that you'll never get from an MP3, and it's just cool, man. It's got more soul." That's Devon Allman, talking about one of our favorite subjects, vinyl. (What else could it have been?) His solo debut, Turquoise (Ruf), is available on vinyl, and it's a cornucopia of influences distilled into an original flavor all its own. Oh, and about his name - yes, Gregg Allman is his dad.
About an hour before his recent acoustic in-store performance at J&R Music World in downtown New York City - during which he sang a deeply touching version of The Allman Brothers' ever-sweet "Melissa" - Devon sat with me in a conference room and we waxed on about wax.
METTLER: I know you grew up in Texas, and that you also grew up listening to your mom's records. How old were you when you first started listening to vinyl?
ALLMAN: I'd say I was probably around 5 when the vinyl bug bit me. There was just something kind of mystical about it, you know? I loved reading the lyrics, and listening to all of the licks. It became an instant love affair, playing records in the house - and listening to the radio, too.
METTLER: Do you remember the system you had at home?
ALLMAN: It was one of those huge consoles with built-in speakers. And then I also had a "kid" record player back in my room. It would play the full-lengths, but it was a toy. It had a speaker on the side. I would go bum a few records from my mom's collection and just dive into them.
METTLER: What were some of your favorites? Hendrix had to be one.
ALLMAN: Hendrix for sure, yeah. The Stones, Tom Petty, Eric Clapton, and The Beatles, big time. Pretty much all of the '70s rock-vibe stuff, and some soul.
METTLER: Do you remember the first album you bought with your own money?
ALLMAN: Wow. [leans back in chair] Um, what would that have been… [slight pause] It was probably a heavy metal record. I went through a metal phase. It was probably Iron Maiden, Number of the Beast. [chuckles] Yeah, but once I started buying them, it became a chronic addiction.
METTLER: Turqouise just came out on vinyl. Do you have an old turntable, or a new one?
ALLMAN: I was recently given a turntable, brand new in the box, by a fan. I had posted something in social media saying I wanted to get back into vinyl, and I asked who could recommend a good turntable. Someone said, "I've got the right one, and I'll send it to you." That was amazing. So on the whole Royal Southern Brotherhood Tour last year, I would stop into the boutique vinyl stores all across America. I amassed a very big collection last year. [smiles]
METTLER: How did you bring them all back with you? You guys toured in a van, right?
ALLMAN: Yeah. There was a compartment in the van where I could fit about 10 records at a clip… I managed. [chuckles]
METTLER: Tell me some of the shops you visited.
ALLMAN: Let's see. There was the Louisiana Music Factory in New Orleans, Grimey's in Nashville, another one in Memphis… But sometimes, when I'm in a hotel room, I'll get on Amazon. Just sit on the bed, and shop. Then when I get home from the tour, they're all sitting there. [smiles]
METTLER: Turquoise sounds great on vinyl. "Key Lime Pie" is a great analog kind of track that you feel like you have to put the needle down on it to appreciate it properly.
ALLMAN: Yeah, it's got that upright bass on it. MP3 just doesn't do it justice. There's a richness and depth to vinyl that you're just not going to be able to replicate digitally.
This is my first solo vinyl record, so I'm very excited about it. I didn't get to see this one cut on the lathe, but I've sat down with [mastering engineer] Howie Weinberg here in the city at Masterdisk Studios as he's done it, and it's amazing to watch him work. Really cool.
METTLER: Turquoise has the blues at its core, but then you have songs like "There's No Time," which has a decidedly Latin feel.
ALLMAN: That's right. Well, I do like all kinds of music - rock, jazz, blues, world; you name it. But when you break down the songs on Turquoise, they all have elements of the blues. They're 1-4-5 progressions, I'm singing soulfully, and I'm playing blues licks. But it's not strict blues. That's why it's called Turquoise - it's just a bit off from blue.
METTLER: Well, you could have called it Kind of Blue, but…
ALLMAN: Right, but then Miles Davis would have been turning in his grave. "That's mine!" [both laugh]
In the videoclip interview below, Allman and Mettler testify their love of vinyl.