Salvation or Salivation? (05/21/99)
Terry Allen, Salivation (Sugar Hill Records 1999) - Multi-talented Terry Allen has worked in such fields as theater, painting and sculpture (his works have been placed in Los Angeles' City Corp. Plaza and San Francisco's Moscone Center).
Terry's new album, Salvation, is a tremendous work, blurring country, roots, and rock to produce an inspired and critical look at life in the late 20th century. From tracks like "The Doll," with an acoustic intensity that matches Houses of the Holy, to the lighthearted "Red Legged Bull" and "Xmas on the Isthmus," Allen delivers a heady mix that brings to mind Willie Nelson's idiosyncratic Texas acoustic rock.
Allen is a free spirit, a keen wit combined with a restless mind. He was raised in Lubbock, Texas, and has been making music for more than 30 years. Allen's father, Sled, was 60 when Terry was born. Sled was a former professional baseball player for the old St. Louis Browns, and brought some of the early rock 'n rollers and blues giants to Buddy Holly's hometown, including Elvis Presley, Little Richard, Fats Domino, and Ray Charles.
Allen is now age 56, and lives in Santa Fe, where he makes his painting and sculpture. Terry shows no signs of slowing down: in addition to Salivation, he has been working on music for films. [Local note - Allen's resume includes a stint teaching art at California State University in Fresno in the 70s.]
Allen describes Salivation as "basically gospel music with a limp and a lurch. It deals with human needs slamming up against spiritual needs." For Salivation, Terry assembled some of the best players in the Southwest, including Guy Clark, Marsha Ball, Ian Moore, Charlie Sexton, and Mark Rubin (from the Bad Livers).
Allen has been described as "sounding like he's shouting the last curses of a prophet about to be stoned to death in his old country." And that's not far from the mark: Allen has tremendous confidence in his abilities.
While the album cover may put you off, get beyond it. Salivation is a spell-binding mix, reflecting the best in American roots music. Don't miss this album.
Claudia Church, Claudia Church (Reprise 1999) - On her debut album, North Carolina native Claudia Church steps beyond her modeling background. With ten songs produced by husband Rodney Crowell, Claudia serves up pop-oriented country.
Claudia appeared on CMT during the early 90's, with roles in videos for Steve Wariner and Ricky Van Shelton. Claudia also appeared in Rodney Crowell's 1992 "Lovin' All Night" video, which led to dating and marriage in September 1998.
With Rodney's expert songwriting (he had a hand in writing half the album's tracks) and production assistance, Claudia Church has a smooth and comfortable feeling. Musicians include Rodney, Steuart Smith and Biff Watson on guitar, Michael Rhodes on bass, John Hobbs on piano and organ, and Tommy Hardin and Eddie Bayers on drums.
From songs like "The Streets of Nashville" (with the familiar Crowell sound) to "Small Town Girl" to "Home in My Heart," Claudia delivers a radio-friendly mix. The album concludes with a country remake of the Shirelle's 1961 pop classic, "Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?"
With her friendly persona, Claudia Church is another fresh face from Nashville.
Lynn Miles, Night in a Strange Town (Rounder 1999) - Lynn Miles is a Canadian artist who made inroads with her first American release, 1996's Slightly Haunted. The follow-up, Night in a Strange Town, finds Miles moving toward a more structured pop sound, while retaining her country and folk influences.
Night in a Strange Town is a collaboration with producer Larry Kline (who has worked with Joni Mitchell and Shawn Colvin) and acclaimed musician John Cody (guitar). Recorded in Los Angeles, the album features such experienced studio hands as Greg Leisz on steel guitar, k.d. lang bassist David Piltch, drummer Tal Bergman, keyboardist Jim Cox and guitarist Dean Parks.
Explains Lynn, "I knew it was time to do another record, but I wasn't sure how I was going to do it. As much as I enjoyed the recording process of the last one, I wanted to do something different. John Cody was in L.A., and he is a friend whom I have known for about 12 years."
Night in a Strange Town has more of an edge, with songs like "Sunset Blvd." and "Yeah, Yeah." And Miles' lovely voice shines through on tracks like "Anywhere" and "The Middle of the Night."
I first encountered Lynn Miles from her work as a backing vocalist for offbeat Canadian folkie Fred Eaglesmith. Miles has the chops to go the distance, as reflected on Night in a Strange Town.
Toni Price, Low Down and Up (Antones/Sire 1999) - Renowned Austin singer Toni Price returns with her fourth CD, Low Down and Up. With a silky smooth blues sound, Price delivers the goods on this easy-flowing album.
A long-time resident of Austin, Toni has hosted the Tuesday "Hippie Hour" at the Continental Club for years.
The new album was recorded at Willie Nelson's Pedernales recording studio, and features Toni's regular band, including Casper Rawls, "Scrappy" Jud Newcomb, and Champ Hood.
Also making guest appearances are Dr. John, fiddler Johnny Gimble (ex-Texas Playboys) and pianist Ian McLagan (who played with the Faces).
Explains Toni, "this album is smooth and silky . . . romantic. I picture a couple dancing in their homes when they play it."
With her deceptively easy-going delivery, Price swings effortlessly through such bluesy numbers as "Feel Like Crying," "Comes Love," and "Out the Front Door."
Like fellow Texan Sue Foley, Toni Price keeps the blues from becoming dormant. Give Low Down and Up a swing.
- Randy Krbechek © 1999
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