At this point Terry Allen has enshrined Lubbock (on everything) as a treasure in any collection. Paired with its predecessor, Juarez, the early works of Allen have a certain hangdog humility about them, a calloused comfort that puts them in league with Guy Clark, Townes, and Blaze Foley as the kind of slightly unsettled classics that go on to live lives much longer than they were ever intended for in their inception. While those two will always be starting points (and ending for some) there’s plenty of merit in digging deeper into Allen’s catalog and while you’re already left smirking from Lubbock, it’s only natural to let the clock tick forward a year to Smokin’ The Dummy.
There’s a rumpled countenance to the album and, it’s probably fair to note, a mischievousness to the nature of the record that was sewn into the fabric from the start. The record was born from a kind of sleaze that greases the edges, but pairs well with Allen’s post-modern cowboy croon. Along with a cadre of players that had begun to take shape during the Lubbock sessions, The Panhandle Mystery Band gets billing above the fold on this one and it’s true that the record feels more indebted to collaboration — a creature of high dawn and hangovers, smoke rings and salacious jokes. Sinners and freaks, parolees, prudes, and fallen stars inhabit the grooves of Smokin’ and Allen enjoys all their faults, sketching their scars with an eye for imperfections. There’s nothing quite like a loser’s album and Allen knows just how to make the most depraved feel like brethren. If you’ve only dug into the top layer of his catalog, its time to go a bit deeper with these latest reissues.
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