The Allman Betts Band
with JD Simo
Iowa City, Iowa • 4/30/2019
by Jeremy Glazier
It’s almost impossible to describe the amount of talent and true musicianship that was present on April 30th as the Englert Theatre in Iowa City, Iowa hosted The JD Simo band and The Allman Betts Band. This wonderful venue continues to bring in one talented group after another and this show was a barn burner. I’d go as far to say that these two groups of musicians are among the very best out on the road today and if you’ve yet to experience a show, what are you waiting for?
The JD Simo band is JD on guitar and vocals, Adam Abershoff on drums, and Andraleia Buch on bass. JD’s musical influences vary between jazz horn players like Yusef Lateef and Wayne Shorter to straight blues guitar influences that include legends Earl hooker and Magic Sam. Mix those influences with the jam bands of The Grateful Dead and The Allman brothers, the ever funky Issac Hayes or Eddie Hazel from some of those early Funkadelic albums, and you’ll have a taste of where this music flows from.
The band played 45 minutes of near non stop funk and blues soaked music starting with “You Need Love” from the new album Off at 11, Magic Sams “I just want a little bit” from the 1968 album Black Magic, and “People Say” from JD’s 2017 Rise and Shine. They are reminiscent of a power trio like Cream or The Jimi Hendrix Experience in that they are extremely tight and completely in sync. And while JD, with either deliberate phrasing or wild abandonment, takes off on a solo, it’s often hard to choose who to watch as each member is a master at their chosen instrument and busy creating their contribution to the overall sound of each song.
They next kick off a screaming, near 5 minute opening solo to B.B. Kings “Sweet Little Angel” that had every subtle signature B.B. King lick while still being uniquely JD Simo. Before finishing up their turn on stage they perform a couple songs that I feel are signature songs for the band in “Long may you Sail” from the 2016 Let Love Show the Way, and “A Little Help From My Friends” that takes it’s notes from the great Joe Cocker’s version of The Beatles classic. I have always loved that song and while I cringe each time some “superstar” tries to cover it, I’m grateful that JD is carrying the torch with that song and gives it the emotion and faithful depth it deserves.
Headlining the night is the recently formed The Allman Betts band, which brings together Devon Allman, Duane Betts, and Berry Oakley Jr. from the original Allman Brothers Band lineage as well as guitar player Johnny Stachela, John Ginty on Hammond B3, percussionist R. Scott Bryan, and drummer John Lum. While the on stage mood is akin to a family reunion, this is the most talented family reunion that I’ve had the pleasure to attend. The set list was a mix of songs from every corner of their combined lineage and the great thing about this group is that they respectfully nod to the past as they cut their own path.
They start the night with two new tracks, “All Night” and “Melodies are Memories” that will be included on the new album, Down to the River, due out June 28th. Devon sings “Left my heart in Memphis” from his previous band Royal Southern Brotherhood before heading into a couple of very well done Allman Brothers Band classics, “Blue Sky” and “Dreams”. Performed excellently, all 3 guitarist take their various turns faithfully putting their stamp on these two legendary songs.
Duane Betts takes the center stage for his song “Taking Time” off of his recent EP Sketches of American Music and then hands it back to Devon for “Mahalo” from his 2006 Honeytribe album Torch. The guys then strip back for an acoustic set with Berry, Devon, Duane, and Johnny all seated across the front of the stage. It’s a great way to engage with the audience on a personal level and allows the band to continue taking you on the journey they are presenting. Another key visual element is the screen show behind the band that show a mix of new and vintage images for each song, presented by Brotherhood of Light who have worked with everyone from the Allman brothers and the Grateful Dead to Jimi Hendrix and The Doors.
The band tends to, refreshingly, choose covers that are a little off the beaten path and such is the case with the first one, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers “You got Lucky”. Devon takes a moment to mention that the next song, the 1973 Greg Allman penned “Multi Colored Lady”, was written by his father, who passed in May of 2017, for his mother Shelly Jefts who passed in October of 2017. He dedicates it to all of those who have lost family and may have been a subtle reference to bandmate, John Lum, whose grandfather, Mr. John Lum had just passed away two days before on April 28th. They finish out the acoustic set with “Seven Turns” from the 1990 Allman Brothers Band album Down to the RiverSeven Turns.
Clearing away the acoustics they go after another Allman Brothers Band classic “Liz Reed” before two more new songs “Good Ol Days” and “Down to the River”. They finish off the show with the Dire Straits classic “Walk of Life” before a group bow and closing out the night. With the weight of their namesakes it would be easy to just cover the classics but, The Allman Betts band is the real deal and did a great job of balancing the ever present history of their roots, while giving us a definitive answer on the direction the are taking with the future.