Terry Allen, Lubbock (On Everything)

Richard Gehr

By Richard Gehr

on 05.18.11 in Reviews

They used to say that all Lubbock, Texas, ever had was Buddy Holly and UFOs, especially the so-called Lubbock Lights photographed in 1951 — but now only the flying saucers remain. And yet something about Lubbock was both necessary and sufficient to spawn a small, tight, and oddly ambitious posse of singer-songwriters who eventually fled the bone-dry town for greater glory elsewhere. Terry Allen, for one, moved to New Mexico, where he flourishes as a well-known artist, playwright, and semi-obscure musician, having released several albums that explore Lubbock's mystery, history, and sociology. Released as a double-vinyl set in 1979, Lubbock (on Everything) is a magnificently witty collection of character studies performed by Allen, a boisterous barrelhouse pianist and singer, and a couple of dozen friends — most notably the prolific Lubbock producer, guitarist, and Dixie Chick sire Lloyd Maines.

A magnificently witty collection of character studies

"I don't wear no Stetson/ But I'm willin' to bet son/ That I'm as big a Texan as you are," roars Allen in "Amarillo Highway," a panhandle credo borrowed by many an anti-macho Texas troubadour. He backs up the bravado in hard grooves like "New Delhi Freight Train." Allen leans hard on Southern hypocrisy in songs about high-school heroes gone bad ("The Great Joe Bob," "FFA"), good girls gone wild ("Lubbock Woman," "The Girl Who Danced Oklahoma"), and cocktail lounge intrigue ("High Plains Jamboree," "Rendezvous USA," "Cocktails for Three"). In "Truckload of Art" and "The Collector (and the Art Mob)," Allen demonstrates himself equally knowing in the ways of artistic self-delusion. "OUI (A French Song)" is a particularly touching Texas tribute to a good ol' boy who can't hack the art world:

Now some say it's pathetic

Lubbock On Everything

Terry Allen

When you give up your aesthetic

For a blue-collar job in the factory

But all that exhibiting

Was just too damn inhibiting

For a beer drinking

Regular guy…like me

Allen's Lubbock odyssey ends in autobiography. "Thirty Years Waltz" memorializes the "storms and the rains," the "fears and the pains," and the "wars and the games" experienced during his then three decades' of marriage to actress Jo Harvey Allen. And even if the record ends with Allen declaring, "I Just Left Myself," Allen's artistic partnerships with his Lubbock buddies — such as Jimmie Dale Gilmore, Butch Hancock, and Joe Ely — inspired at least one more generation of alt-country art desperadoes.