Photo by Todd V. Wolfson
He’s an artist, a writer, a poet, and a musician with a career that stretches back almost a half-century. He’s Terry Allen and he’s a true renaissance man.
Allen was born in Kansas, but he grew up in Lubbock among other future Texas music luminaries like Butch Hancock, Jimmie Dale Gilmore and Joe Ely. He earned an architecture degree from Los Angeles’s Chouinard Art Institute. As a visual artist, his work’s appeared from coast to coast and well beyond American shores. It was with the eye of a visual artist that he crafted his first proper album, Juarez, in 1975. The record was conceived as a concept record, of sorts, made to accompany an art installation. Four years later Allen released the country classic Lubbock (On Everything). The album features wry tales about his native West Texas home, including the great lead track “Amarillo Highway.”
Allen’s kept busy over the years, creating art and making music. His latest record Bottom of the World is his first in almost 14 years. A few weeks back Allen stopped by Studio 1A to perform a few tunes, including the album’s title track (today’s song of the day) in front of a live audience. “Bottom of the World” begins simply enough, a delicately bouncy electric piano and Allen’s well-travelled voice, tinged with plenty of West Texas twang. The song slowly unfolds, first with an understated cello, then with wafts of Tex-Mex accordion work that only gets stronger as Allen starts to weave a surrealistic tale of travels below the border. After almost a half-century creating, the tune finds Allen still at the top of his game.