Arguably one of the best vocal pop/folk bands to come out of the New England area was a group called Devonsquare. The last incarnation of the band was made up of Herb Ludwig, Alana McDonald and Tom Dean, their tight three-part harmonies were immaculate, pure and pristine and their songwriting was equally good. In the 80s they were signed to a record deal with Atlantic Records and released “Walking On Ice” and “Bye Bye Route 66”. In 1996, they released “Industrial Twilight” and combined their first two albums — “(Devon)2” and “Night Sail” — as a compilation CD. But in 2005, tragedy hit the group as one of the founding members, Herb Ludwig, passed away — and it seemed the band was no more and fans mourned the loss. Well, as one of the mourners, I was thrilled to hear that Dean and McDonald were planning a show at Slates in Hallowell on the first of June and having chatted with them, as well as Ludwig, over the years of their career, I just had to find out more. On May 13th, the duo called me to chat about what’s been happening the last 10 years.

Q: Well, this interview is a blast from the past, that’s for sure!

McDonald: This is remarkable!

Q: How long has it been since Devonsquare’s return to performing.

Dean: Well, it never really fully came back as a full-time thing. We lost Herb in 2005, I think a year after that we did a show for President Obama — no, that was probably 2007 — a fundraiser and that was, I think, the first time we played again as Devonsquare with Teg. Alana and I and Teg Glendon, our bass player. And then we did a couple of little things here and there — benefit things and of course the Devonsquare reunion happens every year and we play there. This is the first time we’ve actually put together a small tour in the summertime. So it’s been since 2005 — 10 years, wow, ten years since losing Herb — that’s hard to believe.

McDonald: But we did a show last fall with Aztec (Two-Step) at Jonathan’s and we had a rousing reception. I think we got a standing ovation by the time we got done — and we looked at each other and went, “Wow! This is still working!” And it was invigorating, actually, so I was talking to Tom about it saying, “Why don’t we just book Devonsquare, I know we have people left from our audience just like us, they’ve been taking their vitamins and exercising.”


Dean: And it actually started because I started getting calls from different venues seeing if we were still interested in playing, so it started to become obvious to me that there was not only people that want to see us but there were venues that thought that their folks would come to see us. So between all those things going on, we just decided to do some things for the summertime and we have five shows and a sixth in the works.

Dean: Also doing these shows with us is Robbie Coffin, he’s played with Devonsquare off and on since 1992. He did the release tour for “Bye Bye Route 66” with us. He also plays with David Mallett and was with the Don Campbell Band for two or three years.

McDonald: He played with the Nutopians, as well.

Q: Do you guys still write?

Dean: As Devonsquare? We haven’t done anything since Herb passed away — as far as new material.

Q: Alana, so you do any writing on your own? I know Tom’s done some solo projects in the past.


McDonald: You know, I always say that music finds you and it runs your show, sort of — I continually am forced to write because of an over-active imagination, so it’s a pretty good place to put it. No, I have a few songs I’ve written but actually have not shown them to anybody. I think it’s momentum, we have some rehearsals — we have to first sink our teeth back into our old songs to see if we can remember them, which we will! But if it works out then, yeah, I’d love to do some new material. It’s always fun but it’s a lot of work, too.

Q: Tom and I were talking earlier and I told him I wanted to make it to 2019 with my writing so I could have a half-century as a music journalist.

McDonald: My first gig with Devonsquare — which was a little ahead of Tommy — was in 1969 at the Wildcat Tavern, so that gives me 45/46 years, I believe, and this break after Herbie died, well, I started with Herbie and Jeff Rice, who’s also dead, and Steve Romanoff from Schooner Fare was my first introduction to the band. When Herbie died I just figured I couldn’t do it without him because from the get-go we were kind of a team. Afterward, I did some singing with a local rock band and Tommy was doing his solo thing, so I was able to keep things oiled but it felt good to be singing, and when we’re doing it there’s nothing like it. And as you say, you wanted to be a music journalist, you’ve been doing it all these years. Well, music has always been where my heart is.

Dean: I don’t think there are many occupations or work that you love that you’d want to do for the rest of your life except for music and the arts.

Q: Is there anything, Tom and Alana, you like to pass on to the folks reading this article?

Dean: Well, actually, we have a long history with Slates. I don’t remember the first time we played there but it was back in the mid-80s as a trio and we’d play there twice a year. This was before they did their Monday Night Series — they would just do weekends — and it was before our big record deal and we were still struggling trying to get known and we always loved playing there, so I’m really excited to be going back there again after all these years.

McDonald: Slates is a little more intimate for in Maine, it reminds me of a New York-kind of club because the people are right there and I like it intimate like that. I don’t want a big space between where we’re singing and where the people are. That’s what I love about Slates!

Lucky Clark has spent more than 45 years writing about good music and the people who make it. He can be reached at [email protected] if you have any questions, comments or suggestions.

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.