Devon Allman (Ruf Records)
No mention of Devon Allman's famous father, Gregg Allman, is made until the end of a press release that went out to the media with this disc, a sign of Devon's intent to not live off his father's legacy.
That was apparent as far back as 1999, though, when he formed a Southern rock jam band and called it Honeytribe instead of using his surname. During his decade with Honeytribe, the group released two albums and toured 45 states and 20 countries. Born in Corpus Christi, Tex., Allman, who now calls St. Louis home, also makes the point of saying he was raised by his mother during the height of his father's success but away from the craziness of the Allman Brothers Band in the 1970s.
Whatever sensitivity exists is secondary to the music. Yes, there are some parallels to be found in the styles of Gregg Allman, the Allman Brothers Band, and Devon Allman. But on his debut solo album, his soothing, unpretentious Southern voice and gritty guitar stand on their own.
Allman, 40, is an accomplished musician currently on tour in Europe with a band called the Royal Southern Brotherhood, which he formed with funk and rhythm and blues percussionist Cyril Neville of the Neville Brothers fame. Another member of that band is guitarist-vocalist Mike Zito, who helped Devon write 10 of the 11 originals on this disc (the 11th song being a Tom Petty cover).
"Turquoise" incorporates bursts of Latin and African music into Southern rock, a disc Devon calls "part ‘dusty road driving music' and ‘part tropical getaway.'"
— TOM HENRY
Alice Smith (RainWater Recordings)
Six years is a long time to build up anticipation.
That's how long it's been since Alice Smith released her sultry, soulful 2007 debut, "For Lovers, Dreamers & Me." With that album, the singer-songwriter was tagged with that coveted "next big thing" title. And then ... silence.
She went through the label maze, had a child, performed here and there, but "She" is her first collection of music since that promising first album.
With her sophomore album, Smith shows the promise is still there. Vocally, Smith is still a powerhouse who vacillates between smoldering and soaring; lyrically, she can still craft ear-catching couplets, like on "The One."
Still, the magic that made "For Lovers" so strong, and enduring, is largely missing from "She." Technically, she gets points, but few songs on the album stir the soul quite like its predecessor: Much of the spark of that album was due to an irreverent sass that's missing here.
— NEKESA MUMBI MOODY, Associated Press
Clutch (Weathermaker Music)
Clutch, the hard-touring Maryland band with an endless supply of guitar riffs, is back on the righteous path of heavy rock after an ill-advised foray into bluesy territory. Singer Neil Fallon's growl is ho-hum when it croons over a Hammond B3. But it sounds just right when he's howling at the moon, as on the new demented party anthem, "The Wolf Man Kindly Requests ..."
"Earth Rocker" is Clutch's hardest-hitting album in a while, and it's full of Fallon's occasionally inscrutable, fantastical sci-fi themes. There are references to Guttenberg, the Large Hadron Collider and the medieval weapon the halberd — and that's just in one song ("Unto the Breach").
"The Face" imagines a post-apocalyptic pop culture landscape where rock is dead and electric guitars have been cast into the sea. On "Cyborg Bette," our rock-star narrator falls for a robot, his "latest model." A welcome return to form.
— CHRISTOPHER WEBER, Associated Press