I’m not a huge fan of ‘country’ music. Sure, I can appreciate its narrative qualities, I have a well chosen Johnny Cash compilation in my album collection, I love the output of Dr Hook before they took the full-on cheese-ballad route, I have a healthy respect for the music of Frankie Laine and Marty Robbins, and I have to confess that, as wildly uneven as their output is, I have a place in the dark recesses of my heart for The Eagles. Oh, and only a fool would argue that Dolly Parton isn’t a creative force to be reckoned with. As is Willie Nelson…
Actually, now I come to think of it, there’s a lot of stuff which is broadly classed as ‘country’ music that I quite like. I guess what I have a problem with is the mainstream Nashville-approved, stetson-wearing, likes of Garth Brooks and his ilk. It’s not that I don’t like ‘country’ music, I just don’t like the cliché of ‘country’ music.
Terry Allen’s Lubbock (On Everything) is an album which I would encourage anyone who doesn’t like ‘country’ music to listen to. An artist away from his music (he’s best known as a sculptor), Allen is someone who has spent their music career on the fringes, slowly garnering acclaim without ever becoming a well known name. Lubbock (On Everything) is probably his best known album, and it has recently had a well-deserved reissue. A double on vinyl, it’s a lengthy release, but it needs to be, as Allen stretches his muse delivering shaggy dog stories and rasies a wry smile with his lyrical conceits.
Beyond Allen’s regularly amusing songwriting, Lubbock (On Everything) is notable for its stubborn refusal to obey the cliché’s of ‘country’ music. There’s a feeling of genuine mischief and defiance of expectation of what a ‘country’ album should be, as Allen is by turns humorous, heartwarming and track by track, delivers material that slowly convinces you that he may very well be the best songwriter you’ve never heard of. I’ll say it now, “Truckload of Art” is one of the best songs that I have heard all year, and there are at least half a dozen more on Lubbock (On Everything) that I could say that about.
Lubbock (On Everything) is an album that is often held dear by those that have heard it, and its influence on a number of alt-country acts is plain to hear, with its audio DNA being most obvious in the likes of Uncle Tupelo and the countless bands that they in turn influenced. It’s an album that anyone who doesn’t think they like ‘country’ music should hear, and the same could probably be said about those who do have a soft spot for the cliché of ‘country’ music.
What is ‘country’ music anyway? As Mr Allen himself asks “Which country?”.