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Charm City Devils Singer Explains ‘Man of Constant Sorrow’ Cover

Jeff Chanault

“I think music is always changing and mutating and I really love how it turned out for us,” Charm City Devils singer John Allen tells Noisecreep about the band’s newest single, a cover of the folk classic “Man of Constant Sorrow.”

Most people know “Man of Constant Sorrow” from the movie Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?, but the song existed long before George Clooney lip-synched to Dan Tyminski’s vocal track.

The cover is the first single from the new album SINS which will be released electronically on April 10.

“Man of Constant Sorrow” dates back to the early 1900s, possibly earlier. This isn’t regular territory for a modern rock band. That’s exactly what drew Baltimore-based Charm City Devils to the tune.

“It’s blowing us away,” Allen admits of the success of the cover. “It’s so fascinating how radio stations are finding it across the United States and popping it on. We’re getting a great response to it. We musically changed it of course and tweaked the lyrics. I wrote what we consider a more modern chorus to it — so if you’re a real purist, somebody who loves that song — you might have some objections to what we do with it.”

Watch Charm City Devils’ “Man of Constant Sorrow” Lyric Video


If you listen to satellite radio, you’ve probably heard the song on Octane. It’s in heavy rotation on that station, giving the band an extra boost. The Charm City Devils are no strangers to the rock scene, though. The band was named by Mötley Crüe bassist Nikki Sixx and had a deal with Eleven Seven Music. Because of that relationship, the Charm City Devils were part of Crue Fest 2, which meant touring the country and playing for large crowds. Now, the band is hoping that past exposure will help with their newest venture, all the while trying to grow as musicians. Allen takes on one of the biggest growing pains, stretching his voice and experimenting with a deeper register not explored on the band’s 2009 debut, Let’s Rock n’ Roll.

“Singing is new to me. I’ve been a drummer for most of my career (Allen played drums in ’90s alternative rockers SR-71 and ’80s hard rockers Child’s Play), so the whole lead singer thing — I’m a novice at it. I’m learning rather quickly. I’m trying to develop a better sense of melody and trying to improve as a musician overall. I can sing low and I can sing high. I have a fairly good range, so I wanted to showcase that a little more on this record. It’s all a learning and developing process for me.”

The Charm City Devils will embark on a U.S. club tour beginning April 21. “Man of Constant Sorrow” is available for purchase now on iTunes.

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