I remember the first time I saw Allen, (a couple years ago?) he was playing in the same spot. I liked his music enough that I wanted to buy his CDs. But I didn't have cash with me, and figured I'd try to catch him on my way back about an hour later (after hitting an ATM). On my way back, he wasn't there. Oh well. Some time later, about a year ago, I saw him again But this time I had cash so I bought both of the CDs -- re-Deuced and Country Love -- that he was selling. These were good country albums. You can hear a lot of his music at his website (linked above).
One of my favorite tracks, from Country Love, is "Jack Daniels," an infectiously energetic drinking song. Allen also displays some humor in this -- about two minutes in, he breaks the fourth wall and speaks to the listener explaining that the song is still missing a few of the five ingredients necessary for the perfect country song (mama, trains, trucks, prisons and getting drunk) so he added the next verse to complete it:
I'm gonna jump on that northbound trainAnother great track is "My Biggest Fan," a reminder of what's really important in life. It's about a little girl (at first listen one would think she's a daughter, but for reasons I will mention below I believe she's a niece) who listens to his music and dances to it. This always gets me, partly because it reminds me of my own daughter; it's an amazing feeling to walk by her room, see her coloring or playing a game or something and hear her singing one of the songs I wrote. The key phrase is:
And go see mama locked up in Sing Sing.
If I can stumble through the pouring rain,
Jack Daniels take me away.
I may never sail the oceansBut "My Biggest Fan" notwithstanding, I generally prefer the fast songs to the slow. That is, of course, on par with my general taste in music.
Or ever go out on the road.
But as long as my song's in that little girl's heart
I've got the biggest fan in the world.
Other choice tracks, from re-Deuced, are "I Do" and "Payin' Dues." My favorite, though, is "What I Need," which is what call a meta-country song -- a country song about listening to country songs.
As I was saying, I saw Allen again a few days ago, playing in the same place. This time, though, he had another CD for sale. This one is a live album, Live from Arlene's Grocery. (Arlene's Grocery is a music club on the Lower East Side. Here, Allen is backed by a full band, performing songs from his past two other albums as well as a few others. The sound is clear and the band is tight. This is a worthy live set. At one point between songs, Allen talks about writing songs for his nieces, which is why I am guessing that "My Biggest Fan" is about a niece and not a daughter. (Harold, if you're reading this and I am wrong, please feel free to let me know).
In one of those "small world" moments, I noticed after I left that one of the musicians backing him in the show was Alan Lee Backer, a musician who has been in a couple of bands that I've liked. I'll try to blog about that at some point in the future. There are a couple of other "small world" moments in that story.
Following are a few videos of Harold Allen. Enjoy:
A live performance of "Train Song"
Being interviewed by Cognac Wellerlane. Interview starts at about 6:27
Video for "Your North Star," the song he mentioned (and sang a bit of) in the interview above
A live performance of "Payin' Dues"