Desperate times call for dazzling records. Devon Allman's Ride Or Die acknowledges that life on Planet Earth is no picnic. On the flipside, this third solo album from one of America's best modern writers reminds us there's always hope. "The world is getting crazier by the minute," says Allman. "These songs are about pain, addiction, storms, lust, death, and feeling sometimes that you're utterly lost. But conversely, it's about finding your place in the universe, rebirth, strength, redemption, vindication..."
Recorded at Nashville's Sound Stage Studios and Switchyard Studios, Ride Or Die found Allman in good company, with the bandleader guiding the core lineup of Tom Hambridge (drums/co-production), Tyler Stokes (guitars) and Steve Duerst (bass) – and enlisting fairydust from Ron Holloway (saxophone), Bobby Yang (strings) and Kevin McKendree (keys). With the chemistry fizzing, it's a mix that lives, breathes and grooves, the antithesis of the cut-and-paste jobs that hold sway in the Pro Tools era.
Writing all but two of the songs – either alone or in partnership with his compadres – Allman showcases his ability to catch what it means to be human, while following his muse wherever it leads him. On songs like the thumping opening gambit "Say Your Prayers" or the brittle jab of "Galaxies," he invests blues-rock traditions with modern attitude and smarts. Beyond the blues, this is a showcase for an artist with every color in his palette. As you'd expect from a man with a famously sprawling vinyl collection – and a tattoo of Curtis Mayfield inked on his left bicep – there are nods here to every genre and era.
On a tracklisting that runs the gamut, you'll find the upbeat, horn-bolstered soul of "Find Ourselves," alongside the rueful lyric and poignant lilt of "Vancouver." "Live From The Heart" is a twelve-string acoustic stunner with one eye on the apocalyptic newspaper headlines, while "Butterfly Girl" is a smitten ballad warning of a woman who'll "seduce and hypnotize you when she enters your world." Sonically, too, Ride Or Die is a record that pushes the envelope, whether that's the pumping synth line that opens the cover of The Cure's "A Night Like This," or the Talkbox guitar solo on "Lost" that supports a lyric about fading dreams.