Terry Allen & The Panhandle Mystery Band - Pedal Steal + Four Corners LP+3CD
Label: Paradise Of Bachelors
Terry Allen's curriculum vitae is enough to make even the most accomplished of artists' stop and take note. He's received a Guggenheim Fellowship and multiple NEA grants, taught art at UC Berkeley, among other institutions, has works in the collections of the New York MoMA, the Met, the SF MoMA, publicly funded installations in San Francisco, Kansas City (the controversial sculpture entitled Modern Communication), and the list goes on. This is all before even mentioning what he's perhaps best known for, his music career, which has spanned a dozen albums and 40+ years - kicked off by a 1965 performance on the legendary show Shindig! and most notably represented by his cult classic '70s country singer-songwriter albums Juarez, and Lubbock (on everything). Raised in Lubbock, TX, the son of a pianist and a former professional baseball player who, during Allen's childhood, ran a nightclub that hosted boxing and wrestling matches along with Ray Charles, Little Richard, and Elvis concerts. All of which is to say, this is a man who has lived a life, and seen his fair share of the world, especially the harsh, dry, desolate world that is West Texas.
That experience is palpable in his 1985 piece Pedal Steel, a work commissioned by the Margaret Jenkins Dance Company, a post-modern company based out of San Francisco. Combining original songs, field recordings, and narration - described aptly by Paradise of Bachelors as "country-concrète sound collage" - Pedal Steel is unlike anything else in Allen's catalog; Navajo chants descend into pedal steel freak-outs, big rigs and crickets and thunder and a honky-tonk saxophone all underscore the haunting story, loosely based on the life of the Texas/New Mexico steel player, Wayne Gailey. Impeccably produced by Allen, this is arguably his finest work, and this set is the first ever vinyl release.
Also included in this new Paradise of Bachelors set are 3 CDs collecting his Four Corners - a series of 4 radio plays by Allen and his wife, Jo Harvey Allen, an accomplished artist in her own right, originally broadcast on NPR in the late '80s and early '90s - and a full-color booklet featuring an essay on the work, images of Allen's visual art, and the full scripts of all 5 pieces. A singular piece of work from an artist who embodies Americana in the fullest sense of the word; these are stories that transcend their populist origins, as Allen himself says in Pedal Steel, there's "a lot of ghosts" here.