A musician and an artist in the same breath, Allen’s songs are visually rich and magnificently illustrative. His latest album, extolled as “a revelation” and “the best of the 75-year-old songwriter’s career” (Peter Blackstock, Austin360), is infused with the same imagination, storytelling and musicianship that have been the benchmark of his long, multifarious career – but, with a greater sense of clarity and self-reflection. “I think that’s what art does,” Allen says.
“It takes you into these weird circles back into yourself, but all different, and it also takes you places you never in a million years thought you’d ever go.”
Backed by old friends and new, Allen shares the stage with the Panhandle Mystery Band, including his son Bukka Allen, Richard Bowden, Glenn Fukunaga, Davis McLarty, Shannon McNally, Charlie Sexton, and other very special guests, to play songs from his coming release Just Like Moby Dick, followed by a set of his “greatest missed hits” from classic albums Juarez, Lubbock (on everything) and more.
While Allen rarely makes appearances in Los Angeles, these performances follow sold-out shows at Zebulon earlier this year that coincided with a retrospective survey of his drawings at L.A. Louver Gallery, in an exhibition lauded as “so jampacked with love, suffering and resilience that there’s a good chance you’ll be moved to tears” (David Pagel, L.A. Times).
Terry Allen (b. 1943) was raised in Lubbock, Texas, a place he often describes as “so flat that if you look in any direction really hard on a clear day you can see the back of your own head.” His father, Sled Allen, was a former major league baseball player, who spent his later years promoting wrestling matches and music concerts, exposing Allen as a child to musicians like B.B. King, John Lee Hooker, Hank Williams and Elvis. His mother Pauline Allen, a professional barrelhouse piano player, was thrown out of Southern Methodist University for playing the “devil’s music” with an interracial band. It was from her that Allen learned to play the piano:
“She taught me St. Louis Blues and then she said, ‘You’re on your own.’”
Driven by the “need to get out into the world, without any real reason other than curiosity,” he moved to Los Angeles in 1962 with his wife Jo Harvey Allen, and graduated from Chouinard Art Institute in 1966. He has been the recipient of many awards and honors, including fellowships from the Guggenheim and the National Endowment for the Arts, a United States Artist Oliver Fellow, and an inductee into the Buddy Holly Walk of Fame. His art has been shown throughout the United States and Europe, and is represented in major public collections, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY; Museum of Modern Art, NY; Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, D.C.; Los Angeles County Museum of Art; Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego and Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. Allen has release sixteen albums of original music, and has collaborated with David Byrne, Guy Clark, Steve Earle, Joe Ely, Don Everly, Butch Hancock, Jerry Jeff Walker, and Lucinda Williams. He lives and works in Santa Fe, New Mexico and Austin, Texas with hiswife Jo Harvey Allen.
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Photo credit: Barbara FG