Interview: Creative Loafing
Pedro Arévalo, 32, could be called the bass player of Sarasota.
Odds are, if you’re out and about and you see someone plunking
away, it’s Pedro.
How many bands do you play with around town?
My father has a band called The Acoustic Pete Blues Trio, which
despite its name, ranges from four to 10 people. He also has a
bluegrass group called Swamp Grass. I have a flamenco group I’ve
worked with for many years called The Lotus Fire. I’ll have a project
with my brother starting December called Los Mosquitoes. I’ll be
playing a few Saturday evenings at the Oyster Bar under my own
name. I’ve been playing also with Rastus Kain; he’s a prominent
blues guitarist that’s been in the area off and on for decades.
The main groups I play with are not local, though. Dickey Betts
(of the Allman Brothers) lives here in town. I’ve been his bassist
for the past five years. We did two tours in Europe over the
summer. Aside from that, I’ve been playing slide guitar with Greg
Allman’s son, Devin Allman. The band is called HoneyTribe. We also
did a tour of Europe this summer as well. I suppose I’m on the road
between 200 and 250 days a year.
What’s your favorite type of music?
I like variety. I played in a number of West African groups when
I lived in Boston. I got to travel with them to Africa. I played in
a salsa group around town called the Vine Street Rumba Band.
I love blues, country-blues, and all kind of hillbilly music like
bluegrass. I love jazz, just improvisation. I consider myself an
improviser. That’s my profession.
Do you have any advice for the Sarasota music scene?
It’s a tough scene. There’s plenty of work, but most of them don’t
want to hear a lot about original music. Pandering to the tourist
is the nature of the game. It’s nice downtown having the luxury
to play foreign music. There’s a nice international interest, even
on Lido and St. Armands you can get away with it. On Siesta it’s
much more difficult; they want to hear Buffett. My advice is not to
give in to the bars, and do what you need to do to gratify yourself.
Otherwise, everyone will be playing Jimmy Buffett at every venue.
Interview: Honest Tune
10 Questions with Pedro Arevalo
Josh Mintz | August 7, 2006
Pedro, thanks for taking the time to
speak with us. Tell us a little about your
background - when did you first pick up
Pedro Arevalo: When I was about five
or six my mother taught me how to play
some Christmas songs on a small electric
organ that we had in the house. A couple
years later I bought a keyboard, but I
started playing string instruments when I
was around 10 years old. I wanted to play
bass, but we had several guitars around
the house so my father made me learn
to play a few tunes on guitar before he
could justify purchasing an electric bass.
I believe it was my tenth birthday when I
got my first Fender bass.
HT: And if you had to choose one,
bass or guitar, which would it be?
PA: I like playin’ different instruments, not
just guitar and bass, but those are the two
I get paid the most to play. Is that bad?
I would never want to have to choose,
it’s the variety that makes it enjoyable to
me. What I really love is when I’m off the
road and I have a number of gigs lined up
each night, playing a different instrument
here on Siesta Key. When I get to rotate
like that I feel that I really have my chops
together on each instrument. When I’m
on the road for a month or so and only
get to play one instrument it seems like
my playing really falls apart on whatever
I’m not practicing. When I pick up an
instrument that I’ve been neglecting it’s
very frustrating to me and I feel like I’m
starting from scratch. I really feel like I’m
just tryin’ to pull it together sometimes.
HT: What did you grow up listening to?
What are your influences?
PA: My dad was always playing classic
rock and all the psychedelic folk when
he wasn’t playin’ the blues. I guess I was
always surrounded by stuff like that. I
remember that it was gettin’ to know
Hendrix’s music that made me really
wanna play. I was also playin’ all the
stuff that was popular at the time, the
mid-eighties - I care not to rattle off what
that might have been. It was that stuff
my friends and I were playin,’ funk and
reggae, that had the biggest impact on
me in the early days.
HT: How did playing bass for Dickey Betts
PA: I was working at Suite A Studios here
in Sarasota (Florida), recording a Latin album
and I knew that Dickey was recording there
as well. I’ve always known that this was his
hometown. I had defi nite plans to track him
down and make him listen to me play some
resonator guitar. I got in tight with Chris
Musgrave, the owner of the studio, and he
started inviting me to hang around during
I brought my National tri-cone and within
the first hour or so of meetin’ Dickey we
got to rappin’ about the old delta and
country blues stuff. He liked the way I
played the Robert Johnson stuff, and
started invitin’ me to sit in with the band
during rehearsals and shows. I was sittin’
in with Great Southern in Atlanta when
during the intermission Dickey called me
into the back of the bus. He said, “I hear
bass is your real instrument.” He asked
me if I felt that I could learn his tunes.
I told him that I already had. About two
weeks later he had everybody come down
for an audition where we played three
songs, and he said “welcome aboard.”
The next week I was on the road.
HT: What’s it like playing with him?
PA: Playin’ with Dickey, as a bass player,
is a unique gig. He demands that I chase
the melody all the time. If I were to play
as busy as I do with Dickey in any other
band, I would quickly get fired. It’s a
very active gig for a bass player. The
arrangements and general layout of
the tunes changes nightly. We’re always
improvisin’. If Dickey ever heard any one
of us playing the same thing two nights
in a row, we would probably hear about
it. It’s a very liberating gig. There aren’t
many groups left out there in rock n’ roll
improvising in front of large audiences in
that Grateful Dead sort of way.
HT: You also play with HoneyTribe,
Devon Allman’s band, when you have a
moment. However, you’re on guitar there,
PA: Playin’ with Devon is a totally
different thing. It’s also very free but since
I’m playin’ guitar I can always drift in and
out. It’s nice to be able to rest every once
in a while. As a bass player you seldom
get that opportunity to take a break. In
the case of HoneyTribe, the songs are
already written and I’m just lendin’ my
two cents. But it’s great not to have the
pressure of always being a part of the
machine that holds the groove together.
HT: Are there any gigs that have stood
out for you over the years?
PA: I did a circus gig in 2003 that was the
hardest reading gig I’ve ever done. There
was barely enought time between tunes
to flip the page in the book and then wipe
the sweat off my brow between tunes. It
was under the direction of one of my band
mates from the Vine Street Rumba Band.
Keith was the lead trumpeter, arranger,
and conductor of the Ringling Brothers/
Barnum & Bailey Circus for nearly 30 years.
He’s quite a character. We stayed in Vegas
for one month and only had to perform
three times. It was the best paying gig per
hour I’ve ever had. Those circus cats are
nuts. They make the rock n’ rollers seem
like Sunday school teachers. I had a blast
doin’ the gig and even thought about
pursuing the circus thing. Keith said he
would hook me up if I was interested but
the idea of playing the same thing every
night kind of sat uneasy with me.
The Rock’n’Roll Hall of Fame gig (with
Dickey Betts & Great Southern) was
cool. The Beacon Theatre was definitely
a highlight. The Memphis blues festival
(ed: Beale Street Music Festival, with
Honeytribe) was an honor to be a part of.
But openin’ up for Willie Nelson was a
religious experience for me. Playin’ in
Dickey’s band and smokin’ a joint with
Willie on his bus put me right in between
two of my idols. I’ve never been one to be
starstruck, but in Willie’s presence I was a
fan way before I was a player.
HT: You released an album, Pedro Arevalo
& Friends, back in February. When recording
the album, what was your vision? What did
you hope to accomplish?
PA: When I started recording the album,
I wanted to release a very stripped down
country blues and bluegrass project. As
time went by it became more of a vehicle
for cameos of my friends and peers.
I remember that I didn’t really want drums
on most of the album, but time goes by
and things become more complicated.
Paul Cartwright (the drummer) did an
excellent job, and as each guest made an
appearance the album became more and
I guess I have a grand scheme based
on a series of albums where I gradually
introduce more exotic influences. I
wouldn’t want to mix too many styles on
my first couple albums or people might
think that I’m all over the place and I have
no direction. Likewise, if you play too
much blues people get mad when you
stray away from them. Over time I hope
to introduce more of the African and
Latin influences that have been such an
important part of my career.
Album Review: Hittin’ the Note Magazine
Pedro Arévalo & Friends Too:
Close your eyes and Pedro Arevalo & Friends Too will take you on a
symphonic journey around the world. Numerous friends - like T.C.
Carr on the harmonica, Berry Oakley, Jr. on vocals and guitar, or
various members of Kettle of Fish - dropin and entertain with their
abundant talents, creating magic on bountiful instruments. This
ever-changing line-up proves that music from the soul can be made
The adventure starts with “Mi Guajirita,” a slow tango with friend
Duane Betts contributing an amazing Santana-sounding lead guitar.
Quickly traveling to the Delta, “Oh Lord What Have I Done?” gives
a straight-blues glimpse in the soul of a nomadic poet. The blues
intertwine with country roots and the unmistakable genuine sound
of Dickey Betts on “My Baby’s Gone.” “Keep on Rollin’ On,” also
written by Mr. Betts, is fast-paced and headstrong.
Pedro also includes a cover of an often overlooked Hendrix tune,
“My Friend,” and he shows how to pay homage to a song and creator,
yet claim it for your own. “Since I Found You,” a sweet, airy love
composition erfectly blends with the reverse, “El Gitano Errante,”
a dark, nomadic yet equally lovely ballad. Towards the end everyone
joins together for “Things ‘Bout Comin” My Way,” waving a woodsy
campfire tale of hope. This collection of special friends - from the
musicians to the engineers/producers to the mixers - creates a true
work of blended art on Pedro Arevalo & Friend’s Too.
Album Review: CD Universe
Devon Allman’s Honeytribe
Devon Allman’s Honeytribe hails from St. Louis, MO. Torch is the
band’s American debut, though a live European offering is available
from the band’s website. Yep, his dad’s Gregg Allman, but Honeytribe
has its own sound. Having grown up partly in Corpus Christi, and
later in Missouri, Devon Allman and band’s sound owes very little
to the Allman Brothers.
It’s a space age jam band blues outfit that has bits and pieces of
soul in the mix but the real deep edge is hard rock. Allman is a
solid guitarist and has a decent voice, but he does not possess the
phrasing chops of his old man; then again, it did take Gregg a long
time to become the kind of singer he is now. Torch feels like a debut
album. It has many solid moments, such as the burning instrumental
“Mahalo,” that feels like Bob Dylan’s “All Along the Watchtower”
played by the Santana band without words. The sense of drama is
heightened by drummer/percussionist Mark Oyarzabal’s taste and
presence, and also by Jack Kirkner’s Hammond B-3. The cover of Bob
Marley’s “No Woman, No Cry” is credible, but adds nothing to the
original (why do so many people think that they can cover this song?)
but it does feature guitar wizard Pedro Arevalo’s tasty licks and slide.
“When I Call Home” is one of those bluesy soul ballads that feels
right inside a jam band.
Allman’s singing is what makes the tune. He is expressive, digs down
deep into his belly for the lyric and lets it rip. His guitar work is
beautiful and tasty but he keeps the song upfront. Again, Kirkner’s
organ is such a gorgeous tool in a tune like this, it floats and then
grounds everything as well. The edgy hard rock of tracks like the
title and “Perfect World” don’t seem to work so well in the studio.
Production is a problem because these cats seem to have to crank
every instrument up to ten, leaving no space in the mix. There are
a number of clichés here, too, such as the boogie blues “Heaven
Has No Mercy,” which sounds like a tune your average bar band
would play at a biker road rally. The solo acoustic guitar piece,
“511 Texas Avenue,” is a nice relief from the bombast, and the
album’s closer “Nothing to Be Sad About,” balances the big ringing
guitars with acoustic-honky tonk-style piano and loose, back porch
vocals, showcasing all the band has to offer quite nicely.
Interestingly, Allman’s blues guitar style owes more to Dickey Betts
than it does late uncle Duane’s but then, Betts has infl uenced plenty of
the jam band generation pickers so it might just be coincidence. While
Torch is not an overly impressive debut, it would be a mistake to write
it, or the band off . There’s room to grow and Honeytribe is surely on
the right track.
Liner Note Author: Marlise Paxman
Recording information: Ardent Studios,Memphis, TN (2006);
Leeway Studios, Memphis, TN (2006).
Devon Allman (vocals, guitar); Pedro Arevalo (guitar, slide guitar);
Joe Bonamassa (guitar); Tony Antonelli (percussion); Jackie Johnson,
Susan Marshall (background vocals). Audio Mixer: Pete Matthews.
DVD/CD Review: Bass Player Magazine
Dickey Betts & Great Southern
Brian Fox | November 2005
Back Where It All Begins: Live at the Rock & Roll
Hall of Fame and Museum [Eagle Rock]
Former Allman Brothers Band lead guitarist Dickey Betts revisits
some of the Allmans’ greatest hits on this live DVD and CD,
including “Statesboro Blues,” “Blue Sky,” and “Jessica.” The band
smokes, and Pedro Arevalo digs hard on his Lakland Skyline
44-02, giving Great Southern a snappy, edgy bottom end. In the
DVD Pedro describes his role in the band, namely how Dickey
encourages him to play out and “chase the melody.” Pedro is always
in step, copping Dickey’s licks as soon as they’re played, frequently
taking liberties to flash his own
impressive chops. Despite some hair-raising rhythm-section snafus
on “Ramblin’ Man,” the band lays down the kind of dirty Southern
blues that’ll have you hootin’ for more. (BF)
Album Review: Hittin’ the Note Magazine
Around the World and Back:
Pedro Arevalo and Friends -
Deep Blue Sea Productions
Perhaps the most telling statement about Pedro Arevalo is the
one uttered by none other than the renowned Dickey Betts,
of Allman Brothers Band fame and currently the leader of Dickey
Betts and Great Southern: “Pedro Arevalo is one of the most prolific
songwriters and storytellers I have seen in a long time. As soon as
I heard him, I had to have him in my band.” Taken from a man who
has spun a few tales in his life and hung out with such storytellers
as Billy Joe Shaver, this is not faint praise. One listen to the 14 songs
on Pedro Arevalo and Friends proves Betts’ statement to be very
true indeed. Essentially recorded as an acoustic album, Pedro gets
the opportunity to showcase his numerous talents on acoustic
guitar, electric and upright basses, electric slide guitar, and
oth biscuit cone and tricone resonator guitars. Throw in a little
percussion work on two tracks as well, and it is easy to see
what the fuss is all about.
Pedro Arévalo was born into a musical family, and his need to
create musical sounds was given a certain amount of respect as
the grew up. By age 10, he was honing his skills on bass and
acoustic guitars, and he performed for the first time when he
was a mere lad of 11. As he grew in age and proficiency, he
became involved in session and production work. All of this,
and he had become a guitar teacher as well, with as many as 60
students per week. By the time he was 20, in 1996, Pedro had
received a performance scholarship to the highly acclaimed
Berklee College of Music in Boston, MA.
While working toward the completion of his studies, Pedro
performed with not one, but two, West African band leaders: Djeli
Balls Jounkara in his group, Mande Foli; and Sidi “Joh” Camara in the
band Jamajagi. In addition, Arevalo was part of the drum and dance
ballet, Troupe Sewa. He finished his work at Berklee in 2001 and
began a brief tour of West Africa, where he continued to soak up
all that he could, in particular Mande and Bambara music.
Upon returning to the USA, Pedro found himself in Florida, where
he joined a fl amenco-inspired group called the Lotus Fire. The band
made a quick run through Europe in support of their album, Dance of
the Wicked, and then returned to Florida. At this point, Pedro worked
with a variety of artists, tweaking his skills on the piano, dobro and
Hawaiian guitar, as well as some very diverse African instruments.
Somewhere along this widely and wildly divergent path, Pedro
caught the attention of Dickey Betts, who recruited him to become
the bassist in his band, Great Southern. The experience of playing
the music that Betts made famous has been a growing time for
Pedro, along with stops at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame for a video
shoot and continuous touring.
Which brings us to Pedro Arevalo and Friends. Relaxed, laid back,
but with a smooth groove at all times, the mostly original songs
here highlight all the years of hard work and variety of influences
he has picked up along the way. From the opening “Wine and
Women” story of his weaknesses, to his interpretation of the
traditional “Trouble” and “C.C. Rider,” Arevalo shows that he
learned a lot about the blues along his path, too. Of particular
note is the jazzy “Driftin’ Song,” with brushed drums and bass and
acoustic slide, with a bit of B-3 thrown in. One of the most difficult
things to pullof is a slow blues, but Pedro’s “Reason” testifies to his
ability to do that quite nicely. Just to show that he has learned a lot
from living around the South, throw in the country-flavored
“I Don’t Know” for good measure, and a good time.
Arevalo invited a few of his Great Southern mates to play along,
with fiddle, harmonica, and a very cool Dickey contribution on
one track to give the CD a nice, rounded sound. Pedro Arevalo
may have been around the world a time or two, but catch him
next time he comes nearby. Whether solo or in a band, this man
can flat-out play and sing.