Words by Alex Marsh
Photos by Jerry Friend
Duane Betts & Palmetto Motel - Lincoln Theatre 07/20/23
Duane Betts brought a strong batch of new songs to Raleigh's Lincoln Theatre less than a week after the release of his debut full-length solo album, "Wild & Precious Life." At 45 years of age, Duane has performed with other well-known musicians for decades, including his father, Allman Brothers Band guitarist and co-founder Dickey Betts, but this album and tour is the first time Duane has so boldly made a case for himself as a solo artist, aided by his new band, Palmetto Motel. Gabriel Kelley, from Hogslop String Band opened the show with a solo set of original songs, blues and remembrances of Gregg Allman to warm up the crowd.
"Downtown Runaround," from Duane's 2018 EP "Sketches of American Music," started off the show and then "Evergreen" and "Saints to Sinners," both from "Wild & Precious Life," followed. Duane looked relaxed and comfortable as a band leader and Palmetto Motel sounded good, particularly slide guitarist Johnny Stachela. The new songs are catchy and upbeat, but also have those distinctive Allman Brothers twin guitar harmonies, with Duane playing a Les Paul, and Stachela on Gibson SG. Rounding out the band is Pedro Arevalo on bass, Vincent Fosset, Jr., on drums and John Ginty on organ and piano.
Next was the Allman Brothers classic "Blue Sky," written and originally sung by Duane's father. With Dickey Betts well into retirement now, it's amazing to see his son bring this song to life again, since Duane looks, sings and plays guitar so much like his dad. Although "Blue Sky" raised the arm-hairs on all the peach-heads in attendance, it must be challenging for Duane to honor his father's legacy, while at the same time carve out a new sound and make his own mark. If you want to learn more about Dickey Betts, be sure to check out Alan Paul's new book, "Brothers and Sisters," released this week.
After "Blue Sky," Duane dove into other songs from "Wild & Precious Life" such as "Cold Dark World," "Colors Fade" and "Waiting on a Song." "Cold Dark World" stretched out into a great B-3 organ jam led by John Ginty. Mixed in with these songs were two more covers; his father's signature instrumental, "Jessica," and "Oh Well," by Peter Green's Fleetwood Mac. The latter was sung by bassist Arevalo. The final song of the night was "Stare at the Sun," which was inspired by Derek Trucks telling Duane that his father is "a player that's not afraid to stare directly at the sun."
Duane's debut full-length is very good, and his band is talented. It remains to be seen if Duane can move out from under the shadow of his father's legacy and forge his own path going forward, while still retaining the unmistakable similarities that are genetic, like Lukas Nelson has done to distinguish himself from Willie Nelson, for example. If Duane can put out another record or two as good as "Wild & Precious Life," he should be well on his way towards widespread appreciation for the talented singer, songwriter and band leader that he is, regardless of who his father was.
- Alex Marsh
Saints to Sinners
Blue Sky (Dickey Betts)
Cold Dark World > organ jam
Oh Well (Peter Green)
Waiting on a Song
Jessica (Dickey Betts)
Stare at the Sun