Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Terry Allen

  • Juarez [Landfall, 1975] C+
  • Lubbock (On Everything) [Fate, 1979] A-
  • Human Remains [Sugar Hill, 1996] *
  • Salivation [Sugar Hill, 1999] ***
  • Bottom of the World [self-released, 2013] A-

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Consumer Guide Reviews:

Juarez [Landfall, 1975]
Cut to accompany a museum show by painter-sculptor Allen, who sings like a self-conscious Charlie Daniels, this explores Western-violence mythos with mucho grotesquery and nary a smile. Very, er, conceptual, as dissatisfied sculptor-painters like to put it. C+

Lubbock (On Everything) [Fate, 1979]
Maybe Allen meant Juarez's overstatement to be funny, but it wasn't, because he wasn't. This time he sings like Kinky Friedman with a sense of humor, doing a lot better by his own words than Butch Hancock, the only lyricist in Texas (maybe anywhere) who merits a comparison. From football heroes gone wrong to noble floozies to farmers fiddling while Washington burns, he's a tale-spinning poet of the Panhandle, with local color provided by Joe Ely's homeboys. Like so many double-LPs--though a lot less than most--this could stand some editing. But since that would probably have meant omitting the songs about art, the one subject he knows better than Texas, I'll settle. A-

Human Remains [Sugar Hill, 1996]
autumnal Austin ("Peggy Legg," "Crisis Site 13") *

Salivation [Sugar Hill, 1999]
For an artist (visual division), a pretty good songwriter and a fine village atheist ("X-Mas on the Isthmus," "Salivation"). ***

Bottom of the World [self-released, 2013]
I bought this on the strength of one astonishing song: "Emergency Human Blood Courier," which isn't just what the title makes you hope because the title can't make you hope enough--five minutes that hit harder than any hour of, just as a for instance, The Bridge. Elsewhere the singer-songwriter cum painter-installment artist holds forth with his usual droll soul about a dead dog, a dead banker, a boat, movies, and angels, the last-named twice if you count "Do They Dream of Hell in Heaven," which you should. A-