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In the Jukebox: Paul Allen

A review of the latest collection from the songsmith and poet

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Paul Allen
The Glebe Street Adios
(independent)

Picking up where 2009's Waiting for the Last Bus left off, Paul Allen delivers yet another spunky, Southern-fried treat with his latest album The Glebe Street Adios.

Leaning felicitously towards Americana with shades of country and folk, Adios is an adventurous two-disc double album recorded at Jay Miley's Charleston Recording Studio. With 11 tracks on both CDs, the first one is all Paul Allen originals, and the second is more spoken word and poetry based, with most of it set to music.

It's Allen through and through. Listening to Allen — who is part Mark Twain, part Leon Redbone, and with a touch of Hank Williams' sincerity — is like hanging out with a colorful, silver-tongued uncle. A treasure trove of tales, yarns, jokes, quips, one-liners, and anecdotes, the man has an incredible way with words. Though his musicianship is quite good, and his vocals are solid with a very pleasant natural tone, his lyrics continually steal the show.

Almost every line is gold. Most are good natured and upbeat, delivered with a wink and a contagious smile. With playful sarcasm, clever insight, and a touch of harmless ribaldry, he pokes fun at himself, the status quo, the day-to-day grind, and lovable womenfolk. Think of a more rural, less disdainful, but just as intelligent Frank Zappa waxing on all things Dixie.

But there are a few times where he really hits on something extraordinary. The ballads "His Past is All Ahead," "Loner," "Close to Everything," and the haunting "He Forgets to Forget" are a shade darker than his usual color. Contemplative, somber reflection, and brutally insightful honesty is right where all of his talents converge.

Perhaps the poetry, although solid (particularly the closer "Cliche"), should be on its own album. Maybe a joke gets pushed a pinch too far in the middle of the second disc. And some of the production of the songs that were previously recorded in the field is a touch uneven, particularly with the open-air vocals.

Listeners will let that slide. Allen's vibe is so strong it more than makes up for any snags. A great writer knows that to master the art of the inside joke, his audience must be in on it. Allen nails it here. We take the bait hook, line, and sinker, chuckling all the while. (myspace.com/paulpoemssongs

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