Terry Allen and the Panhandle Mystery Band - Just Like Moby Dick Vinyl 2LP
Terry Allen and the Panhandle Mystery Band Just Like Moby Dick Vinyl 2LP
First Album of New Work Since 2013's Bottom of the World; Vinyl 2LP-Set with Fourth-Side Etching Artwork by Terry Allen
Terry Allen's heartbreaking, hilarious new album Just Like Moby Dick, his first set of new songs since 2013's Bottom of the World, takes its title from the archetypal monster of American literature and the American imaginary. "Memory shot her crystals as the clear ice most forms of noiseless twilights," Herman Melville writes, and for most of the novel, Moby Dick himself remains hidden, haunting Ahab as a crystalline monster of fathomless memory, a terrible fever dream from the depths.
The whale remains a specter on Allen's record too, appearing explicitly only in the briny final line of the last song "Sailin' On Through," and on the artist's Side D vinyl etching, where he lurks menacingly beneath the roiling seas of Thomas Chambers, the 19th-century maritime painter whose floridly freaky nautical scenes adorn the album jacket.
The connections to Melville's 1851 masterpiece are metaphorical and allusive, as elusive as the White Whale. The masterly spiritual successor to widely acknowledged art-country classic Lubbock (on everything) (1979), Just Like Moby Dick casts its net wide for wild stories, depicting, among other monstrous things, Houdini in existential crisis ("Houdini Didn't Like the Spiritualists"), "The Death of the Last Stripper" in town, bloodthirsty pirates (in a pseudo-sequel to Brecht and Weill's "Pirate Jenny"), the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan (in the "American Childhood" suite), a vampire-infested circus (in "City of the Vampires"), mudslides and burning mobile homes ("Harmony Two"), and all manner of tragicomic disasters, abandonments, betrayals, bad memories, failures, and fare-thee-wells. It begins graveside, with Houdini alone with his ectoplasmic doubts in "the silence of the night" (another "noiseless twilight"). It ends with death too, old friends fading into "ashes, dust, and songs."
Fortunately, Just Like Moby Dick features friends in spades, including the full Panhandle Mystery Band in its current, formidable iteration. It is the most collaborative album in Allen's catalog and arguably his most sonically rich and varied as well. Terry shares keyboard duties with his son Bukka Allen, who also plays accordion and piano. Pedal steel master and de facto Panhandle bandleader Lloyd Maines contributes slide guitar and dobro, while Richard Bowden brings his characteristically kinetic and lyrical fiddle; both musicians have appeared on every Allen album since Lubbock (on everything).
The brilliant Charlie Sexton, a veteran of Bob Dylan's bands since 1999 – he's also played with David Bowie and Lucinda Williams and stars as Townes Van Zandt in Ethan Hawke's 2018 Blaze Foley biopic – co-produced the record with Terry at Austin's Arlyn Studios, plays guitar, and sings. Drummer Davis McLarty, a Mystery Band mainstay since Human Remains (1996) is joined by more recent rhythm section additions Glenn Fukunaga (bass) and Brian Standefer (cello). Terry's other son Bale Allen sits in on djembe on "Abandonitis."
The deluxe tip-on gatefold 2LP package features lyrics, color labels, high-res Bandcamp download code, three sides of music, and a fourth-side vinyl etching artwork by Allen.
Terry Allen and the Panhandle Mystery Band Just Like Moby Dick Track Listing:
1. Houdini Didn't Like the Spiritualists
3. Death of the Last Stripper
4. All That's Left Is Fare-Thee-Well
5. Pirate Jenny
6. American Childhood I: Civil Defense
7. American Childhood II: Bad Kiss
8. American Childhood III: Little Puppet Thing
1. All These Blues Go Walkin' By
2. City of the Vampires
3. Harmony Two
4. Sailin' On Through
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