Whenever I go away to Texas, I try to come back with an album that’s unique to the area that I probably wouldn’t ever be exposed to here, much less purchase. Yes, I came back with a buttload of albums on this particular trip…but only one of them was unique to Texas, the ‘Juarez‘ album by Terry Allen.
This album appealed to me for several reasons:
- It’s Texan,
- It’s a concept album about – you got it – Texas
- The dude just seems very fucking cool.
- Oh, and his name happens to be ‘Terry’ – of course.
Have I mentioned how much I love Hogwild Records?
Anyway, Terry Allen (born May 7, 1943 in Wichita, Kansas) is a country music singer in the outlaw country/Texas country genre, painter, and conceptual artist from Lubbock, Texas. He was worked with the likes of Guy Clark to David Byrne and his artwork is in museums worldwide.
C’mon, look at this shit:
There’s even a whole booklet included with this album highlighting his artwork.
As if the music and album itself wasn’t enough.
From the album itself:
Widely celebrated as a masterpiece – arguably the greatest concept album of all time – this haunting 1975 album is a violent, fractured tale of the American Southwest and Borderlands. This version has been remastered from the original tapes and the first reissue on vinyl…complete with original artwork.
Terry Allen is, first and foremost, a visual artist. He just happens to make brilliant, idiosyncratic albums on the side. In fact, his first album, 1975’s Juarez, wasn’t even initially conceived as an album, but as a set of songs recorded to accompany an artwork installation. Original copies of the album were released with a set of lithographs illustrating the characters who populate the album’s world, an elliptical place where motivations and desires are often shadowy to the point of inscrutability, but the characterizations are almost three-dimensional.
The story of two couples on a drinking spree that turns into a murderous chase through the southern California desert, ‘Juarez‘ is a tough-as-nails narrative with the deadpan, biting humor of crime fiction writers like Jim Thompson or Chester Himes. The album was recorded quickly and on a low budget, so the musical settings are ultra-spare, with Allen’s whiskey-cured vocals and thumping piano often the only musical elements. As a concept album, the individual songs don’t work as well out of context, but listened to as a whole, Juarez is one of the more fascinating country albums of its time, like Willie Nelson‘s ‘Red Headed Stranger‘ as reimagined by Quentin Tarantino.
Think of it as a grittier Townes Van Zandt; a very welcome addition to my Texas-inspired albums.