Album review: DICKEY BETTS – Pattern Disruptive

Retroworld [Release date 29.07.13]

Listening to this kick ass record, it’s hard to imagine that the Allman Brothers Band legend Dickey Betts was without a record contract and hadn’t recorded for the best part of 7 years. He came back with a blast of an album that reprised the signature Allman Brothers twin guitar sound in the company of a young pretender, future Allman Brothers guitarist and Gov’t Mule leader Warren Haynes.

The fact that the album didn’t make any waves at the time tells you more about the lamentable state of music in the late 80’s than any shortfall of quality here. It was also probably the reason Betts ditched his promising new solo career for the comforts of his former Allman Brothers home.

‘Pattern Disruptive’ kicks off with the best track on the album ‘Rock Bottom’. It’s a blistering boogie full of high octane  intensity,  scorching unison guitar work and some off kilter cool jazz, but it nails the southern rock blue-print. It takes but one track to realize that the young Warren Haynes is as much a catalyst as he is a foil for Betts’s signature sound. The fact he contributes 4 impressive co-writes also suggests the experienced Betts appreciated his talent.

Dicky’s late 80’s band was proof that southern rock and its jam band offshoot still had currency, but perhaps only in the corporate home of The Allman Brothers. For having resurrected his career alongside Warren Haynes and Johnny Neel, he curtailed his  solo career just as quickly as it started, taking  both of them with him to the Allman’s, while Haynes and Matt Abts were later to establish Gov’t Mule, the very kind of jam band that the music on this  album spawned

Impressive as it is, ‘Pattern Disruptive’ sounds like an album made to order, to try and fit Dickey’s signature guitar into a musical landscape dominated big hair rock bands. To that end Betts apparently ditched his original idea of a country album and called on Warren to record a southern rock album.

Having opened in the best way possible with the powerhouse ‘Rock Bottom’ ‘Pattern Disruptive’, slips into ‘Stone Cold Heart’ which obviously had one eye on the radio. It’s more redolent of the 80’s hook laden rock era and sounds like a cross between Bad Company and the vocal sensibilities of Asia.

Warren gives an early indication of his arresting vocal style on the muscular ‘Time To Roll’, a relationship song with a big sing-along hook, while the Taj Mahal co-write ‘The Blues Aint Nothing’ was a standard in the making.

Dickey’s own  ‘Heartbreak Line’ and the Johnny Neel sung ‘Far Cry’ are both slow burners, while ‘Duane’s Tune’ is an evocative instrumental homage to Duane Allman, full of chiming guitars that are counterweighted by some searing slide and a big 80s’ drum sound.

And it is that same 80’s production that underpins ‘Under The Guns of Love’, which positively leaps into the hook, and if nothing else suggests Betts and his co-writers could write to order.

‘Loverman’ is a dobro led end-piece that makes the connection with the album cover photo. Betts’s vocal is perfect on a well judged down-home harmony drenched finish.

Despite the musical environment of its making, ‘Pattern Disruptive’ stands up to the test of time and is worthy of its re-issue status. It’s a fine album and an important one, in terms of cementing enduring musical relationships that have shaped contemporary jam band music. ****

Review by Pete Feenstra

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