NEPA Scene Staff

Seen at Peach Fest, Allman Betts Band jams live at Circle Drive-In in Dickson City on Sept. 19

Decrease Font Size Increase Font Size Text Size Print This Page

From a press release:

It was announced this week that The Allman Betts Band, who played at the 2019 Peach Music Festival in Scranton, will return to Northeastern Pennsylvania to perform live at the Circle Drive-In Theatre in Dickson City on Saturday, Sept. 19.

Presented locally by Stage West in Scranton and SLP Concerts, The Allman Betts Band is the next generation of The Allman Brothers Band, led by Devon Allman, son of founding Allman Brothers Band keyboardist and singer Gregg Allman, and Duane Betts, son of founding ABB guitarist and singer Dickey Betts. Their new album, “Bless Your Heart,” was released today by BMG.

Gates at the Circle Drive-In (1911 Scranton/Carbondale Hwy., Dickson City) open at 6 p.m., and the all-ages show starts at 8 p.m. Tickets, which are $175 per vehicle for general admission (up to four guests max) and $225 per vehicle for Gold Circle parking close to the stage (up to four guests max), go on sale this Saturday, Aug. 29 at 10 a.m. on, though tickets can be purchased now using the pre-sale code “ABB2020.”

No campers, RVs, party buses, or motorcycles are admitted. Sealed water bottles are allowed. Food and beverages (alcohol included) will be available for purchase. Sitting outside your vehicle is permitted, but all attendees must arrive together and remain near their car. For more details, visit the Facebook event page.

The Circle Drive-In is following Department of Health recommendations and “adhering to safety protocols, mandatory face covering requirements, social distancing, and strict disinfecting and cleaning procedures.” Restrooms will be open with attendants on-site.

Anyone attending a drive-in movie or event must wear a face covering and practice social distancing. The concession stand will have limited selections and has put extra safety procedures in place.

The beginning of the partnership between Allman and Betts goes back to the Gregg Allman tribute show at the Fillmore in San Francisco at the end of 2017. It was time, in that historic venue, to pass the spirit to the next generation. It was time to take all the lessons of the past, all their collective experiences, and make something new.

Following that concert, Betts would go on to serve as an opening artist on the Devon Allman Project 2018 world tour, joining Allman each night for a musical tip of the hat to their respective fathers. The year-long trek was the first to pair Allman and Betts, tallying nearly 100 dates across the United States and internationally – including the 2018 Peach Fest in Scranton and the F.M. Kirby Center in Wilkes-Barre – and increasingly drawing larger audiences with each successive leg.

After a successful year of touring, Allman and Betts officially joined forces to form a new group together. Their first call was to old friend Berry Duane Oakley, son of the Allman Brothers Band’s founding late bassist Berry Oakley, and floated the idea of joining them. The trio’s musical friendship traces back to The Allman Brothers Band’s 20th anniversary summer tour in 1989 when the three first met and often sat in with the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee. In November of 2018, they announced the formation of The Allman Betts Band.

When they released “Down to the River” on June 28, 2019 via BMG, 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.”

In 2019, as “Down to the River” topped charts and dotted playlists, The Allman Betts Band toured relentlessly. Sold-out U.S. theaters in spring turned to festival dates in summer (including the Peach Music Festival), even crossing over the Atlantic for a string of European appearances. It was in Germany in late July when Allman required a tour-ending hospital stay for minor, but necessary surgery. His recovery postponed several ensuing shows, but the writing for a second album enthusiastically continued.

He and Betts already had a growing notebook of new songs, largely composed on the tour bus or in hotel rooms in cities and towns across the country: Baton Rouge, Louisiana and Tybee Island, Georgia; Chicago, Illinois and Charlotte, North Carolina; to name a few. They reenlisted Stoll Vaughan, a singer/songwriter from Los Angeles (via Kentucky), who’d collaborated on five of “River’s” nine tracks, to advise on the developing material. And they booked a return to Alabama’s Muscle Shoals Sound Studio, the historic recording facility where they’d cut the debut, as well as resigning Grammy-winning producer Matt Ross-Spang to reprise his role helming the recording.

After Allman’s healthy return and a run of fall tour dates, including the third annual Allman Family Revival (expanded from San Francisco to Denver and New York City), the group decamped to Nashville for rehearsals ahead of the recording session, fleshing out the new songs until satisfied they had reached peak performance.

“We thought that if we can maximize the potential of each song, then we have a shot at making a cohesive, great record,” Allman said.

Under a siren’s warning of approaching tornadoes, but secure in the familiar, single-story brickhouse comfort of Muscle Shoals, the band began tracking its own brand of whirling, raucous rock and roll. Following a year’s worth of touring as a unit – as Allman said, the “200 races the horse had run” – the dividends were immediate and plentiful.

“Now we know how the band plays. We know to trust each other’s instincts. The dynamics have a flow to them – when to step back, when to push forward,” he noted.

“Once we got rolling, the floodgates opened,” Betts added.

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.

Among the fiery set is “Magnolia Road,” a semi-autobiographical overview of Allman and Betts written, ironically, by Vaughan alone, and a tie-dyed contender for summer festival favorite. There is the album’s starter, “Pale Horse Rider,” ominously evolving into a dark and dense rumbler accentuated by an unbridled storm of guitars, evoking the spirit of Neil Young’s Crazy Horse and modern counterpart, My Morning Jacket.

And “Ashes of My Lovers,” a mourning motif of romance and wreckage, inflected with traildusted harmonica complementing the cinematic Badlands spook. Or “Airboats & Cocaine,” with its tongue firmly in its cheek, telling the Southern Gothic tale of a girl born into the wrong family and her guy regretting his incidental associations with the underbelly of swampland contraband, wrapped up in a loose, mid-tempo stinger.

Over a week’s time, they recorded 13 songs, with 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 worthy of its winking, unabashedly Southern title. What sophomore jinx?

“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,” Betts described.

“I hope what people hear on ‘Bless Your Heart’ is a band that’s having a love affair with being a band,” Allman said.

See NEPA Scene’s photos of the Devon Allman Project and Duane Betts performing at the 2018 Peach Fest here.