Terry Allen

Human Remains (Sugar Hill)

Welcome back, Terry -- it's been too long. Twelve years, in fact, since Bloodlines. But true artists don't feel compelled to crank out product for product's sake, they put it out when it's right. And Human Remains is definitely right. "Gone to Texas" is, after an 18-year wait, the followup to "Amarillo Highway," vintage Allen trying to explain the mystique of Texas highways and open spaces, before he finally gives up and decides that if you don't get it, you're either a "Yankee" or a "critic." And his duets with Lucinda Williams are an unexpected but extremely welcome combination that hopefully will be repeated often. Their voices don't quite match, but they blend together in a pleasant way, like Thelonious Monk's off-key piano against John Coltrane's sax. Other songs, like the teenage-angry "Crisis Site 13," revive his flair for creating characters. Allen's still a bit limited in his musical range, and one or two songs are throwaways, but the album as a whole is vital Texas intellectualism and creativity. It's not Lubbock (On Everything), but it easily stacks up against everything else in his brilliant career.

HHH 1/2 -- Lee Nichols

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