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.”
THE ALLMAN BETTS BAND
BLESS YOUR HEART (BMG)
RELEASE DATE: FRIDAY, AUGUST 28