Several years ago, a friend gave me a burned copy of this CD and while listening to it I marveled at how something so wonderful had been out there that I was somehow unaware of until that moment. The first sentence of the album review on AllMusic.com reads:
Although it’s all but unknown outside of a devoted cult following, Terry Allen’s second album, 1979’s Lubbock (On Everything), is one of the finest country albums of all time, a progenitor of what would eventually be called alt-country.
In my experience, this album will make you laugh, cry, sing along, and then start it over again from the beginning, all the time wondering how Terry Allen was able to do it. I have never listened to anything else by Allen, for fear that I will be disappointed. Nothing else he recorded could possibly be this good.
About a year ago there was a “deluxe reissue” CD, which I should really buy since all I have is the original burned copy given to me many years ago, and along with that reissue a YouTube documentary short (around 11 minutes) was filmed. Without going back to re-watch this to make sure my facts are accurate, in the documentary short the story told by the producer is that Terry Allen came into his office, sat down at the piano and proceeded to play the entire album for him (all 79 minutes). This convinced him the music should be recorded.
Allen opens with “Amarillo Highway (for Dave Hickey)”, with the chorus:
An I ain’t got no blood veins
I just got them four lanes
Of hard…Amarillo Highway
After I hear this refrain once, I am happily singing along until the end of the song. Terry Allen has a very distinct way of singing and putting accents on his syllables that suit the lyrics. Well, here is the song.
Terry Allen is also an artist and graphic designer, and I believe that is what he does these days, living in Santa Fe, New Mexico, which is a good place for artists. Four years ago I was married just outside Santa Fe and a few days after the ceremony the new family and me journeyed down first to Carlsbad Caverns, and then to Marfa, Texas. Marfa is in the Big Bend area, and though the population is under 2000 it is known for artists and art installations out on the highway into town (such as a fake Prada store). There was a bookstore across from the hotel and the following day I walked over, surprised that such a small town had a store of this size. While purchasing my treasures I noticed there were small stacks of CDs at the counter, and all of them were by Terry Allen. I asked the proprietor about this and he said that Terry and his wife used to live in Marfa, but they had since moved to Santa Fe. The proprietor was a funny little guy with an odd lisp (I think there may have been a cleft palate or something going on) and he knew Terry and his wife.
Lubbock (On Everything) is a long and interesting journey, and through the first four songs, nothing appears to be amiss. Then you get to “Lubbock Woman” and that one is kind of different, a little outside what a country singer might be singing about. “The Girl Who Danced Oklahoma” takes a distinct right turn, as the singer meets a woman at a party sitting in a chair naked, who then begins to dance. Then you arrive at “Truckload of Art”. With the initial narration explaining the events of the song, a truckload of art being driven across the country, which ends up on fire. Then he sings about it. I feel like I’m giving away plot lines talking about these songs. The “Art Mob” song doesn’t seem to make much sense, but why does he keep singing about art?
“Oui (a French Song)” [I’m sure you have noticed by now that Allen enjoys parentheticals] has the wonderful line:
Now some say it’s pathetic
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
Shifting tones, several short songs in a row, occasional speaking and narration, along with subjects perhaps only sung about in country music by Terry Allen, are what make this album special. As I have listened to it in order to charge my brain enough with memory to write, I am surprised at the emotional response I have to songs not heard for a while now. I’m not always sure about the content of a song based on its title, but am then happy when I hear it and know the chorus and perhaps some other lyrics as well. But I suppose that is how it always is with art, and our response to what works for each of us individually.
I am most affected by the song “The Beautiful Waitress” on listening to it just a half hour ago or so. In our brand new age of strict sexual harassment protocol, the singer would be arrested for his maudlin attempts at love with the waitress, but nonetheless I find the lyrics very apropos and lovely. Here he is singing it live a few years ago:
‘Cause you’ll only love her once
Only this one time at lunch
And she might as well love you too
Ahhh…it’s the last time
You’re passin through
On the album version there is a little narrative at the end wherein the singer tells of meeting a waitress once and discussing art with her, especially the drawing of horses. This is of course also available on YouTube, for anyone interested.
Lubbock (On Everything) is one of those special pieces of music that always makes me very happy when I listen to it.
—Stu Moore often wishes he still lived in the desert Southwest. Apparently, he did not play enough cowboys and Indians as a small child.