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Terry Allen

There may be no greater maverick than Terry Allen in all of country music from the mid-'70s onward. Along with Jimmie Dale Gilmore, Joe Ely, and Butch Hancock -- all of whom he's known and collaborated with -- Allen is a standard-bearer of the Lubbock, Texas country scene. Though not widely heralded, this is perhaps the most progressive movement in all of contemporary country, digging into modern-day concerns with a gutsy, liberal perspective while maintaining a firm musical grounding in regional country and folk traditions. Allen is perhaps the most ambitious of them all, writing complex song cycles that have been performed with the help of fellow eclectics ranging from Lowell George to David Byrne.

Allen's audience, like those of other Lubbock pioneers, is not the country mainstream. Indeed, his principal appeal may not lie with the country audience at all (though his music definitely is country), but with open-minded alternative folk and rock listeners. Unlike most current country artists, his words aim to question and confront hard day-to-day realities rather than offer conservative clichés or maudlin comforts to shield listeners from those very day-to-day realities. He does so with a humor and irreverence that will find little sympathy in Nashville or Middle America.

Country music is just one of Allen's artistic pursuits, perhaps accounting to some degree for his wide perspective. The Renaissance man is also an internationally recognized artist with three NEA grants and a Guggenheim Fellowship to his credit. He's also a true multimedia performer, having done work in the mediums of painting, sculpture, film, video, installation, theater, and poetry. Among his more interesting projects, for instance, was writing the music for Amerasia, a film about American servicemen living in Thailand after the Vietnam War; writing a new national anthem (with Ely, Hancock, and Gilmore) in conjunction with a book about Vietnam; and collaborating with his wife, Jo Harvey Allen, as well as Ely and Hancock, on the production of the acclaimed stage play Chippy.

But Allen is not a country music dilettante, having written songs for Bobby Bare and Robert Earl Keen. Outside of the strict country sphere, he wrote "New Delhi Freight Train" for Little Feat, and contributed a few songs to the soundtrack of David Byrne's True Stories film. The cinema has always been an inspiration or influence upon Allen's work. His first album, Juarez (from the mid-'70s), was a conceptual work that originated as a soundtrack to an imaginary film, evolving into a set of songs inspired by Mexican imagery.

Released in 1979, Lubbock (On Everything) is considered his most significant album. Inspired by his experiences growing up in the Texas town, it won praise for observing the details of regional life and characters with a sensitivity and wit more akin to rock and folk singer/songwriters than country ones. Allen's music (if not his lyrical content), however, remains very much in the Texan country tradition.

With several artistic projects always in the works, Allen hasn't felt the need to record frequently. His singing and songwriting prowess remained undimmed, though, on 1996's Human Remains. He also expanded his musical horizons significantly with support from such noted stars and cult figures as David Byrne, Lucinda Williams, Ponty Bone, Lloyd Maines, and Joe Ely. Salivation was released in 1999.

Allen focused on various other disciplines, showing his paintings and sculpture, and writing poetry in the early years of the 21st century. His next album to appear was Amerasia: A Film by Wolf-Eckart Buhler, a soundtrack to an obscure work from 1987 film about American soldiers who remained in Southwest Asia after the war in Vietnam. It was recorded in Cambodia with a local rock band called Caravan, and in Lubbock with his own Panhandle Mystery Band; it was released in 2003. He continued to show his artwork globally and collaborate with playwrights, visual, and performance artists. He also toured his music both solo and with small bands.

In 2005, his play Dugout was published by Univ. of Texas Press; it was followed five years later by an extensive self-titled monograph. Allen didn't record again until late 2012. Bottom of the World was self-released on his tla label, and was met with critical acclaim for its dark, wry vision. Its lineup featured Maines, Bukka Allen, Sally Allen, and Richard Bowden. ~ Richie Unterberger
full bio

Selected Discography

x

Track List: Bottom Of The World

1. Four Corners

2. Queenie's Song

3. Hold On To The House

4. Do They Dream Of Hell In Heaven

5. Bottom Of The World

6. Angels Of The Wind

7. Emergency Human Blood Courier

8. Wake Of The Red Witch

9. The Gift

10. Sidekick Anthem

11. Covenant (For Jo Harvey)

x

Track List: Best Of The Sugar Hill Years

1. Amarillo Highway

2. What Of Alicia

3. Helena Montana

4. Gimme A Ride To Heaven Boy

5. Truckload Of Art

6. X-Mas On The Isthmus

7. New Delhi Freight Train

8. Flatland Boogie

9. The Doll

10. Red Bird

11. Peggy Legg

12. Wilderness Of This World

13. The Beautiful Waitress

14. Give Me The Flowers

15. Cortez Sail

16. Oh Hally Lou

x

Track List: Salivation

1. Salivation

2. The Doll

3. Billy The Boy

4. Southern Comfort

5. Rio Ticino

6. Red Leg Boy

7. Cortez Sail

8. X-Mas On The Isthmus

9. Ain't No Top 40 Song

10. The Show

11. Give Me The Flowers

x

Track List: Smokin The Dummy / Bloodlines

1. The Heart Of California (For Lowell George)

2. Whatever Happened To Jesus (And Maybellene)?

3. Helena Montana

4. Texas Tears

5. Feelin Easy

6. The Night Cafe

7. Roll Truck Roll

8. Red Bird

9. The Lubbock Tornado (I Don't Know)

10. Bloodlines

11. Gimme A Ride To Heaven Boy

12. Cantina Carlotta

13. Ourland

14. Oh Hally Lou

15. Oh What A Dangerous Life

16. Manhattan Bluebird

17. There Oughta Be A Law Against Sunny Southern California

18. Bloodlines (II)

x

Track List: Human Remains

1. Gone To Texas

2. Room To Room

3. Back To Black

4. Wilderness Of This World

5. Little Sandy

6. Buck Naked

7. What Of Alice

8. That Kind Of Girl

9. Galleria Dele Armi

10. Crisis Site 13

11. Peggy Legg

12. After The Fall

13. Flatland Boogie

x

Track List: Amerasia

1. Amerasia

2. My Country 'Tis Of Thee

3. The Burden

4. Back Out Of The World

5. Swanlake

6. Display Woman/Displaced Man

7. Lucy's Tiger Den

8. Chop Sticks/Thai Sticks

9. Nobody's Goin' Home (Friendship Highway)

10. Metrapab

11. Church Walking

12. Food Stall

13. Canal

14. Sawahdi (Christmas Song)

15. Orphans

16. Pataya

17. Let Freedom Ring

x

Track List: The Silent Majority: Terry Allen's Greatest Missed Hits

1. Advice to Children

2. Yo Ho Ho

3. Home On the Range

4. I Love Germany

5. The Burden

6. Big Ol White Boys

8. Oh Tired Feet

9. Rollback

10. Cocktail Desperado

11. 3 Finger Blues

12. Oh Mom

13. High Horse Momma

14. New Delhi Freight Train

15. Loneliness Rockin By Momma Lonesome Rose Lonely Road

16. Hearts Road

x

Track List: Juarez (Reis)

1. The Juarez Device (Aka Texican Badman)

3. Cortez Sail

4. Border Palace

5. Dogwood

6. Writing On Rocks Across The USA

9. What Of Alicia

10. Honeymoon In Cortez

11. Four Corners

14. Cantina Carlotta

15. La Despedida (The Parting)

Comments

Report as inappropriate
Terry Allen can out play, out pray and out lay any of those Nashville stars! The best
Report as inappropriate
riding on that New Delhi Freight train-Terry Allen is the best!!
Report as inappropriate
Got to work for Terry/alongs i d e him on a sculpture project of his several years ago at my former place of employment. Super nice guy, interesting and thoughtful. He was totally unassuming and open to suggestion. Started listening to his music after that experience. He is straight-up honest and genuine in life, as in his music.
Report as inappropriate
My best friend who passed turned me onto Terry. He's freaking fantastic. Listen to him and see my friend.
Report as inappropriate
wit and social commentary shine though. Definitely an original and as is generally the case almost unknown. Real shame given his talents and insights. No Nashville country, this
Report as inappropriate
I Love Terry Allen!!!
Of ''ALL'' the singer/songw r i t e r s , artists, regular folk,& every other wanna-be on the planet...Ter r y reigns as a man surrounded by children! His vision as a musician, sculptor, painter, poet, & an overall maverick in the world of art, is unequalled by anyone! Truth cuts deep! Thanks Terry...for ''all'' you do...
dougsmith
pianist/comp o s e r
Report as inappropriate
Terry A is great! However, commentary contains too many generalizati o n s : not Texas content, one can point to many other Texas-based writers who exhibit the same detailed observations ; appeals to liberal/open - m i n d e d which I would characterize more as that Terry has a penetrating insight open to everyone. Likewise, conservative cliches, Terry deliberately plays with cliches and uses their cliche-ness to extract new meaning from the standard usage, lampooning all comers! Thx, Terry!
Report as inappropriate
Learned about Terry Allen from Matt Cartsonis who took me to Terry's play at the Skirball Center in LA. Met him afterwards.

__Gary Austin (childhood in Corpus and Odessa)
Report as inappropriate
Love Terry Allen. Absolute favorite artist!

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