The Upshot: Texas singer-songwriter in ’75 was a striking and surreal, a torrid and twisted storyteller.
BY LEE ZIMMERMAN
Although he’s yet to attain the stature of his more renowned Texas peers like Willie Nelson, Joe Ely, Jimmie Dale Gilmore, Butch Hancock, or Lyle Lovett, Terry Allen holds a special place in the annals of the Lone Star State’s musical lore. Widely respected as a songwriter, artist, visionary and collaborator (Guy Clark, Lucinda Williams and David Byrne are among those with whom he’s worked), Allen’s music always remained one step ahead of the masses, and therefore somewhat lofty and cerebral in terms of its set-ups.
His first album, Juarez, was a typical case in point; both daring and descriptive, its original release in 1975 proved an auspicious if unlikely debut. A concept album in both its eloquence and execution, it told the story of two ill-fated couples who have a deadly encounter in a Colorado hotel room, following the plight of the survivors as they attempt their escape across the border. A vivid tale of misfits and outcasts, it reads like some twisted pulp fiction, with Allen narrating the plot and underpinning the action with songs that transpose the stark settings into icy vignettes. Its appeal was deliberately downplayed through songs delivered in the starkest of settings, with only piano and vocal employed for its melodies.
This newly released reissue adds a 48 page booklet, with Allen’s original lithographs, several essays, lyrics and libretto included. As incisive a crime story as ever committed to a groove, Juarez is striking and surreal, a torrid and twisted pastiche stirred from decadence and desire.
DOWNLOAD: “”Cortez Sail,” “What of Alicia,” “Honeymoon in Cortez”