FAME Review: Terry Allen - Bottom of the World
Terry Allen - Bottom of the World

Bottom of the World

Terry Allen

Available from Amazon.com.

A review written for the Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange
by Mark S. Tucker

There are two reasons to grab this CD. The first is Terry Allen, the second is Lloyd Maines. There's more than a little Leonard Cohen in Allen, though Cohen's lyrics have never been as bitingly sarcastic as Allen's. Lenny's the purgatorial poet, Terry's the rogue dropping in on the Big P, Heaven, and Hell, subtly jostling all and sundry in each locale before stepping back out with a grin and a gentlemanly gait, leaving howls, moans, and outrage behind. It's been a ridiculously long 14 years since his last release, Salivation (2012's Live at Al's Grand Hotel doesn't count, live albums never do), and I'm sure we should be pissed with the guy for that, but he's a multiple artist and had other matters occupying those ever creative hands. I'll get to that in a bit.

Queenie's Song, written with Guy Clark, is a grit-toothed heartfelt song about finding your dog dead, kilt by some bastard. I know the feeling, and Allen mirrors it well: one of my many cats, a big highly intelligent Burmese I named 'Sardonicus', was poisoned by someone 35 years ago, and I still keep my ears open, hoping someone somewhere is going to reminisce on it, in a bar maybe, and I'll strangle the sonofabitch where he stands. But if you want to see the kind of irreverence that occupies Allen's highly logical mind, catch this from Do They Dream of Hell in Heaven?:

Do they dream of Hell in Heaven
Do they regret how hard they tried
And wish now they'd been much more sinful
And repented just a minute before they died?

…capturing and inferring a number of the idiocies of religion and the hypocrisies of the religious mind, all in one stanza. And that long-famed good ol' time BS comes in for a trouncing more than once before this release winds down. The entirety of the CD is sparse and arid, with Maines demonstrating as much intelligence in what he plays as what he doesn't, leaving huge negative spaces to illuminate the singer and his words while haunting the periphery, floating 'twixt one dimension and the next. The guy is another Lindley/Cooder/Landreth, dispensing not just music but art, every note sculpted.

Terry Allen, too, is an artist through and through, but more than just a reprobate musical japester, and not only was he chosen by David Byrne to help with True Stories but his graphic work hangs in many international museums (LACMA, NY Metro, L'Espace Lyonnais, Musee St. Pierre, etc.), often comprised of prints, paintings, installations, and theatrical hybrids. So it's not that he wasn't making music for the last decade-plus but that he was taking care of…other things. Allen eschews the label of 'country music' even though Allmusic called his 1979 Lubbock (On Everything) one of the all-time best country albums. Someone once commented upon that, and he replied "Country? Which country?". That gives you an idea of what you're in for with this disc.

Track List:

  • Four Corners
  • Queenie's Song (Allen / Clark)
  • Hold On to the House
  • Do They Dream of Hell in Heaven
  • The Bottom of the World
  • Angels of the Wind
  • Emergency Human Blood Courier
  • Wake of the Red Witch
  • The Gift
  • Sidekick Anthem
  • Covenant [For Jo Harvey]

Edited by: David N. Pyles

Copyright 2013, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
This review may be reprinted with prior permission and attribution.
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