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Vinyl Reissues: Terry Allen and the Panhandle Mystery Band on Paradise of Bachelors


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rfEqYcmeujU

RIYL: David Byrne, Guy Clark, Bob Dylan, The Flatlanders, Randy Newman, John Prine, Lucinda Williams, Townes Van Zandt.


This first-ever vinyl reissue, remastered from the original analog tapes, includes a gatefold jacket and inner sleeve with restored, new, and alternate art and photos by Terry and Jo Harvey Allen; an insert with lyrics, original notes, and Terry’s letter to H.C. Westermann about the songs; and a high-res download code.


Deluxe CD edition features a trifold jacket and inner sleeve. Indie stores will get a 15% discount on each of the CDs.


Recorded exactly two years after acclaimed visual artist and songwriter Terry Allen’s masterpiece Lubbock (on everything), the feral follow-up Smokin the Dummy is less conceptually focused but more sonically and stylistically unified than its predecessor it’s also rougher and rowdier, wilder and more wired, and altogether more menacingly rock and roll.


Following the 1973 Whitney Biennial, in which songwriter and visual artist Terry Allen and fellow iconic artist Horace Clifford “Cliff” Westermann both exhibited, Allen maintained a lively long-distance correspondence and exchange of artworks and music with Westermann, whose singular and highly influential art he admired enormously. In a February 1981 letter to his friend and mentor, written shortly after the late 1980 release of his third album Smokin the Dummy, while he and his family were living in Fresno, California, Terry explains the genesis of the album title: Westermann died shortly after receiving this letter, enclosed with a Smokin the Dummy LP, the minimalist black jacket of which Allen suggested that Cliff fold into a jaunty cardboard hat if he didn’t like the music. That response was unlikely, since Westermann loved Terry’s music, calling his debut record Juarez (1975) “the finest, most honest and heartfelt piece of music I ever heard.”


The Panhandle Mystery Band had only recently coalesced during those 1978 Lubbock sessions, Lloyd Maines’s first foray into production. Through 1979, they honed their sound and tightened their arrangements with a series of periodic performances beyond Allen’s regular art-world circuit, including memorable record release concerts in Lubbock, Chicago, L.A., and Kansas City. Terry sought to harness the high-octane power of this now well-oiled collective engine to overdrive his songs into rawer and rockier off-road territory.


His first album to share top billing with the Panhandle Mystery Band, Dummy documents a ferocious new band in fully telepathic, tornado-fueled flight, refining its caliber, increasing its range, and never looking down. Alongside the stalwart Maines brothers co-producer, guitarist, and all-rounder Lloyd, bassist Kenny, and drummer Donnie and mainstay Richard Bowden (who here contributes not only fiddle but also mandolin, cello, and “truck noise theory,” the big-rig doppler effect of Lloyd’s steel on “Roll Truck Roll”), new addition Jesse Taylor supplies blistering lead guitar, on loan from Joe Ely (who plays harmonica here). Jesse’s kinetic blues lines and penchant for extreme volume were instrumental in pushing these recordings into brisker tempos and tougher attitudes. Terry was feverish for several studio days, suffering from a bad flu and sweating through his


clothes, which partially explains the literally febrile edge to his performances, rendered largely in a perma-growl. (By this point, he was regularly breaking piano pedals with his heavy-booted stomp.) Like the album title itself, the songs on Smokin the Dummy ring various demented bells. The tracks rifle through Terry’s assorted


Obsessions especially the potential energy and escape of the open road, elevated here to an ecstatic, prayerful pitch and are populated by a cast of crooked characters: truckers, truck-stop waitresses, convicts, cokeheads, speed freaks, greasers, holy rollers, rodeo riders, dancehall cheaters, and sacrificial prairie dogs, sinners seeking some small reprieve, any fugitive moment of grace.


A reigning deity of a certain kind of country music since the mid-70s.

– The New York Times


The kind of singular American artist who expresses the fundamental weirdness of his country.

– The Wire


Tracks:

A1. The Heart of California (for Lowell George)

A2. Cocaine Cowboy

A3. Whatever Happened to Jesus (and Maybeline)?

A4. Helena Montana

A5. Texas Tears


B1. Cajun Roll

B2. Feelin Easy

B3. The Night Café

B4. Roll Truck Roll

B5. Red Bird

B6. The Lubbock Tornado (I don't know)

 

https://youtu.be/ObuemcjFSEI

RIYL: David Byrne, Guy Clark, Bob Dylan, The Flatlanders, Randy Newman, John Prine, Lucinda Williams, Townes Van Zandt.


The first-ever vinyl reissue of Allen’s manifold, moving fourth album, remastered from the original analog tapes.


Deluxe LP edition features 140g virgin vinyl; a gatefold jacket, inner sleeve with restored, new, and alternate art and photos by Terry and Jo Harvey Allen and friends, insert with lyrics and original notes, download code.


Deluxe CD edition features a trifold jacket and inner sleeve. Indie stores will get a 15% discount on each of the CDs.


On his manifold fourth album, acclaimed songwriter and visual artist Terry Allen contemplates kinship the ways sex and violence stitch and sever the ties of family, faith, and society with skewering satire and affection alike. Bloodlines compiles thematically related but disparate recordings from miscellaneous sources both theatrical and historical: two songs written for plays; two full-band reprises of selections from Juarez; the irreverent hellfire-hitchhiker-on-highway ballad “Gimme a Ride to Heaven Boy” (featuring Joe Ely); and the poignant eponymous ode to the arteries of ancestry and landscape (the debut recording of eight year-old Natalie Maines, later covered by Lucinda Williams).


Since 1970, when they met in Allen’s studio in his hometown of Lubbock, Texas, one of songwriter and visual artist Terry Allen’s great foils and friends was the sometimes cantankerous but always brilliant art critic and writer Dave Hickey, with whom he sparred on topics musical, visual, and beyond (and to whom this reissue is dedicated in memoriam, in the wake of his passing in 2021.) Hickey, a fellow Texan paddling against the currents of the hermetic New York centric art world, was an accomplished songwriter in his own right, and


he and Terry pushed each other to refine their respective practices. In 1983, the two were thick as thieves brothers in blood and Hickey’s wry but big-hearted presence haunts the history and periphery of Bloodlines, the album Terry released in June of that year.


Hickey’s commercial doubts notwithstanding, critical recognition was not in short demand. In a 1984 review of Bloodlines, the L.A. Herald Examiner called Allen “one of the most compelling American songwriters working today … making the most unique art-pop of our time,” elsewhere comparing him not only to Moon Mullican and Jerry Lee Lewis, but also to the Velvet Underground and Philip Glass (probably the first time that unlikely quartet ever appeared together in one sentence). In 1983, against all odds, such sentiments were growing in underground prominence, as Allen’s records gained a fanatical word-of-mouth following they weren’t easy to find in those days.


Recorded piecemeal at Caldwell Studios in Lubbock, in sessions spanning August 1982 through January 1983, Terry self-released it, like all his previous records, on his own Fate Records imprint. Despite his frustration with the protracted timeline and some anxiety about the correspondingly higher budget, the production on Bloodlines courtesy, once again, of master guitarist Lloyd Maines is slicker, cleaner, and more dynamic than prior efforts, and it reached a broader audience than ever before. UK label Making Waves reissued it in 1985, facilitating semi-reliable European distribution for the first time as well as a 1986 UK tour, on which the great BJ Cole filled in for Lloyd on pedal steel.



No veteran country songwriter sounds more attuned to the national mood. His songs still feel like little guidebooks for staring down a harsh universe.

– The Washington Post


It has always been a fool’s errand to frame Allen in terms of other artists there was nobody like him before he showed up, and the subsequent 40 years have been equally light on plausible peers.

– Uncut


Track listing:

A1. Bloodlines (I)

A2. Gimme a Ride to Heaven Boy

A3. Cantina Carlotta

A4. Ourland A5. Oh Hally Lou


B1. Oh What a Dangerous Life

B2. Manhattan Bluebird

B3. There Oughta Be a Law Against Sunny Southern California

B4. Bloodlines (II)

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