Reviewed by Jim Caligiuri, Fri., March 15, 2002
Bukka AllenRuta Maya, Thursday 14 They may have taken most of the other worldly funkiness out of the newly renovated Ruta Maya Coffee House, but for this show at least, local pianist/songwriter Bukka Allen managed to get some grit back in the place. Allen was backed by some of the best players in Austin: Rob Gjersoe and Will Sexton on guitar, George Reif on bass, and Brian Standafer on cello. They managed to lend his songs an admirable cinematic quality, even more impressive as Allen's songs crossed several genres. Opening with an instrumental that could have been a theme from some long lost spaghetti western, they moved into a bit of Americana that recalled the orchestral side of Randy Newman. At times, Allen's songs were reminiscent of those of his father, renowned Lubbock songwriter Terry Allen, in their rhythms and melodies. But where the elder Allen's tunes possess a country tinge, Bukka's bear a definite rock edge. This was especially true on the loud and defiant "Confidant," where Gjersoe let loose a fiery solo. It was unfortunate that the vocal mix was so muddy, making Allen's lyrics generally unintelligible. But his music, filled with power and soul, spoke of emotions and desolation and was moving on its own. He finished with a bit of boogie that had the scent of his dad's pals Little Feat all over it, nicely rounding out a set that proved Allen an interesting and effective tunesmith.