Terry Allen-Juarez

October 28, 2008

Terry Allen

Juarez (Fate 1975)

http://www.mediafire.com/?w93ibjujmni

It is a wonderful problem to have in this troublesome world, but sometimes it is hard to pick the next album for this lowly blog. Over the years, so many albums have wormed their way into my heart. Some have been my best friend at 4am when the whiskey wears thin and soothing sounds are required to ease me into the next day. Some are forever associated with moments of sheer ecstasy where life was absolutely electric. Others lack an association with a particular moment, but they still remind me of why I spend so much of my time listening to the albums which litter my home. There is a massive mental list of albums that I would like to share, but Terry Allen’s Juarez was always near the top of the list. However, a fella can’t give it all up on the first date, so you had to wait a few months before I slipped off my granny panties and revealed what is in store for you.

Terry Allen may be one of the most unsung voices in country music and Juarez, his debut album, might be the first I would grab if ordered to take one with into the next life.  He never received the same accolades as Lubbock, TX contemporaries like Butch Hancock, Joe Ely and Jimmie Dale Gilmore, but only the Flatlanders debut can match the brilliance of his opening salvo. Juarez is a concept album, but dispel all notions of Yes and ELP’s prog manifestos since this concept is noirish at its very core. It documents the dark tale of an alcoholic couple on a bender who get involved in murderous sojourn through a Southern California desert by way of Mexico. It is more than a great album, but a well-crafted story complete with spoken word interludes that introduce the characters in a colorful fashion. The story is the linchpin that draws you into the world of Sailor, Spanish Alice, Jabbo and Chick Blundy as they drink, fuck, get married, escape, the law, honeymoon and meet ther eventual demise. Each song is another step in a narrative about adventure, bad decisions, love and a surrender to impulse. I cannot think of another album that works so well as both a story and ode to the tragic nature of the outlaw in country music.

The best moments are the most sparse. When it is Just Terry Allen and a piano, it reminds me of Neil Young’s After the Gold Rush or Tonight’s the Night, but with less rock and roll at its core. “Cortez Sail” is the pinnacle of the album as it may be one of the most lonesome songs about leaving a town for a new beginning. A storm accompanies their departure and it serves as a metaphor for all of the shit that is about to go down, but amazingly shifts into a vivid description of the Aztec persepctive as Cortex arrived to conquer and colonize a foreign land. It is an odd juxtaposition, but one that truly spooks me to my core. When he yodels “Pachuco” it sends chills up my spine. Plus, any song that includes the lyrics “see how the lightning makes tracks in your air, tearing the clouds in and closing the tear, but you’re not surprised anymore, you’re going home” is ok with me. It foreshadows doom, but the protagonists are ok with their fate because their is a certain beauty to the idea of home.

If there is anything you cherrypick from this ramshackle collection of musings, please make Juarez your first destination. It is an album rarely cited as a classic, let alone mentioned outside of country aficionados and deserves much love and respect from all who encounter it.

Guy Clark-Old No. 1

July 14, 2008

Guy Clark

Old No. 1 (RCA 1975)

http://www.mediafire.com/?5tzrzerdqmy

There are certain eras and places which are forever associated with the heyday or a particular genre. From the 60s British Invasion to the NYC and British punk scenes of 77-82, there are certain times in which there was an electricity and excitement that a new day was coming. In my opinion, country music has seen a few heydays from the Appalachian folk of the Carter Family to the heartbreaking schmaltz of the 60s, country assimilated Americana and cast itself in a new image. Sadly, Americana ain’t what it used to be and we are stuck with country’s assimilation of Bon Jovi and American Idol. Things ain’t what they used to be.

However, my favorite era of country is the outlaw mystique of the 70s where country artists soaked up all of the weed, LSD, psychedelia and rebellious attitudes of the 60s and spat it back out. You can hear the echoes of the Grateful Dead, Haight-Ashbury and psychedelic soul of the era and married to the past and it resulted in a period which I hold dear. Just off the top of my head I can name David Allen Coe, Jimmie Dale Gilmore, Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, Michael Hurley, Jerry jeff Walker, Emmylou Harris, Joe Ely, Guy Clark, Townes Van Zandt and Gene Clark as individuals who pushed the enveloped of country music.

Guy Clark wrote “L.A. Freeway” for Jerry Jeff Walker and it was a hit that led to RCA signing him up to the label for his debut Old No. 1. He assembled a band that included Emmylou Harris, Steve Earle, Rodney Crowell and David Briggs. They provide a gorgeous canvas for Guy Clark to paint tales of leaving town for good, honkytonk hoochie mamas, intrepid hitchhikers and the perils of nostalgia. The album has little to do with outlaw imagery. This album is almost pathologically obsessed with loss and new beginnings. What makes it so sad is that he puts up this front that these new directions will be positive, but you get the inkling that he knows it will end in failure again. There is even one track “Old Time Feeling” that reminds me of Cat Stevens tacking a country tune for the Harold and Maude soundtrack. There is a fear of the future which permeates the album and it echoes a desire for things to remain the same. Lost opportunities and bad luck abound in Guy Clark’s lyrical world and it bums me out to no end. However, it is so damn gorgeous that it always ends in a draw.

David Allan Coe

Longhaired Redneck/Rides Again (1976 & 1977, reissued by Bear Family in 1993)

http://www.divshare.com/download/4727672-671

Lordy, Lordy, David Allan Coe conflicts my PC soul. He has included racial epithets in his country tunes and there are some youtube interviews that reveal the ugly side of the man’s soul. However, it is very hard to deny the brilliance of his unflinching take on outlaw country. He is a thoroughly honest songwriter that documents an element of American culture and does it in a heartbreaking and tragic manner.

It isn’t too hard to see what made him such a squirrely individual. He was in and out of reform school, correctional centers and prison on and off from age 9. He claims to have spent time on death row for murdering a fellow who requested oral sex and when questioned about the authenticity of his penal claims, he responded by writing a musical tirade entitled “I’d Like to Kick the Shit Out of You.” Before outlaw country was just a twinkle in a marketer’s eye, Coe already sported multiple tattoo and long hair and rose around on his Harley. This made him a perfect foil to Merle Haggard, Willie Nelson, Kris Kristofferson and others lumped into that rowdy wagon.

He already had many albums under his belt as well as a hit song penned for Tanya Tucker by the time these albums were released in 1976-77. By this point, he seemed frustrated by the outlaw country tag, but embraced every element of it as well. The title track of Longhaired Redneck sees Coe rebelling against his pigeonholing by critics and DJs while embracing “true outlaws” as he sings:

Country DJs knows that I’m an outlaw.
They’d never come to see me in this dive.
Where bikers stare at cowboys who are laughin’ at the hippies.
Who are prayin’ they’ll get out of here alive.

The loud mouth in the corners getting’ to me.
Talking about my earrings and my hair.
I guess he ain’t read the sign that says I’ve been to prison.
Someone ought to warn him, ‘fore I knock him off his chair.

‘Cause my long hair just can’t cover up my redneck.
I’ve won every fight I’ve ever fought.
And I don’t need some turkey telling me that I ain’t country.
Sayin’ I ain’t worth a damn dog, ticket that he bought.

‘Cause I can sing all them songs about Texas,
And I still do all the sad ones that I know.
They tell me I look like Merle Haggard,
And sound a lot like David Allan Coe.

Overall, he was the epitome of the genre, but George Jones’ troubled songs of addiction, anger and wasted opportunities are a better parallel than the more sensitive, radio-friendly voices of his contemporaries. By no means, were they purveyors of pop, but Coe and Jones are kind of repellent characters who aren’t just telling a tall tale. They lived what they wrote and pursued paths which were sometimes a source of personal ruin. Plus, I always enjoy his incessant jabs at hippies. They really bother the man. His salute to the Byrds and Flying Burrito Brothers on “Willie, Waylon and Me’ also lifts my weary soul.