The Austin Chronicle

Terry Allen & the Panhandle Mystery Band Album Review

Just Like Moby Dick (Paradise of Bachelors)

By Rick Weaver, February 7, 2020, Music

When he isn't dropping off truckloads of his work at every port in media, multidimensional artist Terry Allen splits the difference between imagination and experience. On Just Like Moby Dick, he hot-shots another off-the-radio-dial studio LP clean across a flat open road paved with cement sparkle and double lined with satire and tenderness. Whether he's Smokin' the Dummy (1980) or "Sailin' on Through" as the white whale does here on a lounge-chair-sage clincher, the ex-panhandler puts Allen on everything. Between his vocalist grit, with a little bit of nose and quiver, and slow-jounced piano chords, which laze back and forth like a beached, post-country Buffett adrift in sea shanty sway, there pools puddles of secret sauce – the words. Perhaps the first and possibly the last person in America's far country-swathed corners to rhyme "appendicitis" with "abandonitis," Allen's lyrical knack for looking sideways while smiling through a story enhances the daylight diffusion of the album's Carole King-esque studio lightness of being – aerated and mastered by Brooklyn-based Josh Bonati. Allen can't take all the credit for the fun, as it's a friends and family affair: Jo Harvey Allen, Bukka Allen, Bale Allen, and Kru Allen, not to mention co-producer Charlie Sexton, co-writer Joe Ely, and vocalist Shannon McNally, who steals the last leg of the show as she soars above the big top in "City of the Vampires," a carny polka stomp that creeps through the shadows like an inverted "Wonder of It All."


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