Devon Allman recommends 10 gems that bear the unmistakable out-of-town whiff of hay, horse shit and hooch.
NUCLEAR VALDEZ – Summer (1989)
This is a song that I discovered back in high school. I worked in a record store, and as soon as school was over I would be down at the store. This time of my life was about devouring whatever music I could get my hands on. This song has explosive vocals, but cool, understated guitar work. It’s that perfect mix of having vibe and being catchy.
**ROBERT EARL KEEN – Corpus Christi Bay **(1993)
I was born and raised in Corpus Christi, Texas: a small city not too far from the Mexican border. This song just sounds like my home town. There are lots of lyrical references to things in town and it takes me right back to my childhood. To me, Robert Earl just sounds like some southern uncle telling you stories.
JOHN HIATT – Something Wild (1993)
This song kicks major ass. It’s just got so much energy. Just the sound of the snare drum in the chorus. The lyrics are honest and direct, and John Hiatt’s voice is one of the best mixes of country and rock to ever exist – it’s like the world’s most expensive mahogany-hued leather. From the first time you hear this song, you are transported. I sing this one at the top of my lungs often.
SCREAMIN’ CHEETAH WHEELIES – Hello From Venus (1996)
It’s an amazing song and what an outstanding voice. The lyrics totally remind me of how being on tour always gives you the vibe of being on another planet: ‘Down in the farmland, quicksand, there’s nowhere to go, I don’t have the guts to go back there alone, knowing what I know, so I just telephone to them…’ Amen, bro.
THE BOTTLE ROCKETS – Indianapolis (1997)
The lyrics to this one – ‘Can’t go west, can’t go east, stuck in Indianapolis with a fuel pump that’s deceased’ – are solid gold. Any band that’s been on the road, having a bad time with travel, can relate to this. When you break down on the road it can zap your mojo.
BEN NICHOLS/LUCERO – Nights Like These (2002)
This song will make you want to drink whiskey and remember every chick that ever dumped your ass. I first saw this performed solo on acoustic by Ben Nichols in a tiny shit-hole club in Memphis. It floored me with its simplicity, and how it had this haunting pulse but remained catchy.
FRED EAGLESMITH – I Shot Your Dog (2003)
This is a song that my bandmate in Royal Southern Brotherhood, Mike Zito, turned me on to. It’s hilarious. The lyrics and delivery are just perfect. Even though music is a very serious thing to me, it’s nice when it can make us laugh as hard as stand-up comedy.
THE JAYHAWKS – Angelyne (2003)
What a gorgeous song. It’s got killer structure, and the lyrics haunt you. ‘You could never stand living with a man, who could only lead you half way to love.’ That is some deep shit.
BLUE HIGHWAY – I’ll Wait (2006)
This version of Van Halen’s 1984 hit is a gem. A song that was once riddled with synthesisers, gloss and fake tits is given a Kentucky, tobacco-spitting, chicken-neck-breaking treatment. It sounds as if it should be the original; soulful, with shit-kicking banjo.
LUCERO – I Can’t Stand To Leave You (2012)
There’s just something so special about the pacing, vibe and imagery of this song. The pedal steel is spooky-perfect, the vocal is ragged yet smooth at the same time. This song is mystical, yet simple, and it always takes me to another place. The ultimate highway song.
Devon Allman’s album Ragged & Dirty is out now. For more information, visit his official website.