thu 19/09/2019

CD: Jon Allen - Deep River | reviews, news & interviews

CD: Jon Allen - Deep River

CD: Jon Allen - Deep River

An accomplished piece from the hard-working journeyman

Allen: a pastoral yet stirring pace

If you're not familiar with Jon Allen, here's a few facts: he possesses a fine gravelly voice, and nimble fingers. More than anything, though, Allen has an uncanny knack for penning a good tune. He learnt his craft while sequestered up in a woodland shack. Actually no, that’s Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon. The truth is Allen’s back-story is a little prosaic by today’s standards – he studied song-writing at a performing arts college in Liverpool. Still, what he lacks in romance he makes up for with sweat and perseverance. 

In keeping with its cover, Deep River, Allen's third LP, mainly flows at a pastoral yet stirring pace. If that first bit sounds a little off-putting, be aware too that Allen has, largely, avoided the kind of naval-gazing that mars so much modern guitar music. Things may start a little on the sentimental side but, after a slow beginning, the quality of the music keeps building.

Four songs in particular stand out: “Hummingbird Blues” is an open-tuned finger-plucker that sounds like it could have been lifted off Nick Drake’s Five Leaves Left. Here both Allen’s guitar and vocals have a peaceful, early morning feel. Next up, “Fire in My Heart”, kicks in with a cascading piano riff reminiscent of the old standard, “Cocaine Blues”. A couple of tracks later the album reaches its peak with “Wait for Me” – a dreamy tune with a whiff of Harry Nilsson’s “Everybody’s Talkin’” about it. And the final shift of mood is the penultimate track, “All the Money’s Gone”, which trucks along with the same off-hand sense of desolation as Dylan’s “Everything’s Broken”.

I’m not sure, in fact, that it doesn’t have the actual same chords as “Everything is Broken”. Still, if Allen doesn’t have a distinctively original style what of it? Deep River isn’t “retro” in some karaoke or X-Factor sense. Rather, it is evocative of some of the more interesting moments from the alternative modern songbook. Well worth checking out.

Overleaf: Watch Jon Allen performing "Night and Day":

Hummingbird Blues is an open-tuned, finger-plucker that sounds like it could have been lifted off Nick Drake’s Five Leaves Left

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Editor Rating: 
3
Average: 3 (1 vote)

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