People tell me it’s country music, and I ask, “which country?” – Terry Allen
Legendary artist Terry Allen is no stranger to the ramifications of border-crossing—it’s something he’s been doing both literally and figuratively, geographically and professionally, for his entire adult life. A native West Texan who now lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico—he hails from Lubbock, also home to Buddy Holly, Waylon Jennings, and the Flatlanders—Allen occupies a unique position straddling the disparate worlds of country music and visual art. We’re not sure that you could say the same about anyone else, ever, and certainly not with the same level of aplomb, acclaim, and success—not to mention the same biting, self-effacing sense of humor about it all. That’s not to say that his work fits comfortably in either normative forum, because it doesn’t, really; it’s far too unwieldy and rangy and willfully unconcerned with fashion and specious cultural hierarchies. The Renaissance man is a quaintly old-fashioned notion in this era of hyper-specialization and technical expertise. But Allen works astonishingly hard, and the work is so impossible to ignore that he has steadily earned his deserved accolades.
Allen’s artwork resides in the collections of the Met, MoMA, the Hirshhorn, and Los Angeles’ MoCA and LACMA, among many other institutions, and has been exhibited internationally at Documenta and the São Paolo, Paris, Sydney, and Whitney Biennales. You can encounter his public commissions across the U.S. He is the recipient of Guggenheim and NEA Fellowships. In the realm of music, in addition to several projects with the aforementioned Byrne, Allen has likewise collaborated closely with Guy Clark, Lloyd Maines (pedal steel master, producer, and father of the Dixie Chicks’ Natalie), and the Flatlanders (Butch Hancock, Joe Ely, and Jimmie Dale Gilmore). He has released over a dozen albums since the mid-1970s, including the deeply influential Lubbock (on everything). His songs have been covered, recorded, and championed by the likes of Dave Alvin, Laurie Anderson, Bobby Bare, Ryan Bingham, David Byrne, Don Everly, Jason Isbell, Robert Earl Keen, Little Feat, Ricky Nelson, Peter Rowan, Doug Sahm, Sturgill Simpson, and Lucinda Williams.
All of Allen’s most ambitious works—among them RING (1976-80), Anterabbit/Bleeder (1982-90), YOUTH IN ASIA (1982-92), DUGOUT (2000-04), and Ghost Ship Rodez (2007-10)—incorporate music, visuals, and performance in various permutations, both independently and in integrated dialogue. JUAREZ provided the indelible blueprint for such gesamtkunstwerk strategies, appearing as drawings, constructions, songs, prints, installations, texts, a screenplay, a musical theater piece (co-written with David Byrne), a one-woman stage play, and an NPR radio play (both starring his wife, the actor and writer Jo Harvey Allen). As Allen reflects, “It became the underpinnings for the way I’ve worked since then—using language, using songs, using images, in whatever direction they had to go. That structure, I think, imprinted itself so heavily on me at the time.”
Widely celebrated as a masterpiece—arguably the greatest concept album of all time—his spare, haunting 1975 debut LP Juarez is a violent, fractured tale of the chthonic American Southwest and borderlands. Produced in collaboration with the artist and meticulously remastered from the original analog tapes, our 2016 reissue is the definitive edition of the art-country classic: the first reissue on vinyl; the first to feature the originally intended artwork (including the art prints that accompanied the first edition); and the first to contextualize the album within Allen’s fifty-year art practice. The deluxe LP package includes a tip-on gatefold jacket, printed inner sleeve, download code, and 24 pp. book with related artwork, lyrics, and essays by Dave Hickey, Dave Alvin, and PoB. The CD edition features replica jacket, inner sleeve, and a tipped-in 48 pp. book.
Allen’s deeply moving (and hilarious) critically acclaimed satirical second album Lubbock (on everything), a complex memory palace to West Texas hometown, is often cited as the urtext of alt-country, one of the most important and influential country records of all time. Produced in collaboration with the artist and meticulously remastered from the original analog tapes, this is likewise the definitive edition: the first to correct the tape speed inconsistencies evident on all prior versions; the first U.S. vinyl reissue; the first CD to restore the full track listing; and the first to contextualize the record within Allen’s career. The deluxe 2×LP package includes a tip-on gatefold jacket with lyrics, printed inner sleeves, download code, and 28 pp. book with related artwork and photos, an oral history by Allen, and essays by David Byrne, Lloyd Maines, and PoB. The 2×CD edition features replica jacket, sleeves, and tipped-in 52 pp. book.
Price: from $10.00
Price: from $12.00
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- Pedal Steal: Terry Allen, Covered: A Playlist.
Feb. 19: Granada Theater – Dallas, TX
Mar. 12: ACL Live at Moody Theater – Austin, TX
Apr 29: McCabes Guitar Shop – Santa Monica, CA
Apr 30: Empire Polo Club – Indio, CA
May 3: Slims – San Francisco, CA
Mr. Allen’s magic strength is that he can keep two or more big ideas in the air at once, juxtaposing them without explicitly merging them until they kind of belong together: sex and real estate, love and colonization, greed or guilt… He’s pretty close to a master lyricist.
– The New York Times
Allen’s songs extract strangeness from the known world and use it as a means of acquiring greater knowledge. This is an old man’s confirmation of a young man’s speculation, which is as good definition of wisdom as any. [Juarez is] a series of beguilingly off-kilter songs about Texas, California, and Mexico, held together by spoken interludes that gave it the feel of a movie.
– The New Yorker
His catalog, reaching back to 1975’s Juarez, has been uniformly eccentric and uncompromising, savage and beautiful, literate and guttural.
– Rolling Stone
Nobody else does country music like Terry Allen… There’s not a wasted word or extraneous musical lick.
– Los Angeles Times
He’s one of the last wild geniuses left who hasn’t been commercialized by the media. For 50 years, he’s sung neo-honky-tonk art songs in a thick-tongued Lubbockian drawl that makes Waylon Jennings sound as patrician as William F. Buckley Jr.
A true modern day Renaissance man… renowned for his effortless command and outrageous combination of disparate genres and media, according to the task at hand.
– Dave Hickey
There may be no greater maverick than Terry Allen in all of country music from the mid-’70s onward.
There is just one person whose art has been seen in highbrow museums around the country and is an inductee of the Buddy Holly Walk of Fame in Lubbock, Tex. He is Terry Allen, [and] he favors a style you might call Old West Psychedelic.
– Ken Johnson, New York Times
From football heroes gone wrong to noble floozies to farmers fiddling while Washington burns, he’s a tale-spinning poet of the Panhandle.
Little official country music is this good. The music cranks and lopes along, stops and starts again; there are a lot of holes in it, a high-plains silence that always waits behind the music, as if to tempt Allen into shutting up again.
I love Terry. He’s a funny son of a bitch.
– Guy Clark