Terri Allard,
Loose Change and Spare Parts
(Reckless Abandon Music, 1999)

Terri Allard takes her time between making albums. But she certainly used the years well -- since her last one, Rough Lines in 1996, she has managed to grow artistically in a big way. She added more variety to her music and spiced her act up with even better songwriting. Americana is her trade, but whether you call it that or whether you insist it's alternative country or whatever term is hip right now, the fact remains that she was always very good and now she's become even better.

Listening to Allard's lyrics on Loose Change and Spare Parts, you will realize immediately the one thing that sets her apart from the bulk of artist in the same field: she writes lyrics that are not easily categorized. She manages to pen humourous songs just as well as songs about lost souls. So many of her competitiors belong exclusively to the eternally depressed and introspective bunch. Don't get me wrong, that kind produces lots of great music, but after listening to so many albums which took me to the bottom of the human existence, it's more than a little refreshing to be reminded that life can have other shades, too.

Allard's considerable talent on the six-string Taylor guitar and her slightly husky and funky alto voice are the heart of her music, the source and inspiration for her sound. Allard has reserved a prominent place on this album for harmonica whizz Gary Green, who for years was gigging with her on a regular basis. An upright bass is used on all of the tracks, providing for a warm and and natural feeling throughout the recording. On the title track, the bass and harmonica realize a jazz-inspired smoky bar atmosphere and the soaring lap steel adds the dry flavour of Texan music. Other songs like "Reckless Abandon" and "Words You Can Not Say" are closer to the country vein; the latter includes a magnificent mandolin solo. "Squeaky Wheel" changes direction slightly again and turns out to be a steaming and hard-hitting country blues piece.

In "La La Rosie," Allard pictures a woman's emotionally bleak life with almost brutal honesty: "Driven by the darkness / and the pounding in her brain / Rosie goes to La La Land / and never feels a thing." There are the dreams of hitting the road again after a long time in "We'll have Elvis" and there's the whacky "The Television," about the endless promises the TV set blares out without end, which makes the storyteller think of blowing it up in order to silence it for good.

Allard is a wonderful observator of human strengths and frailties. With a keen eye and a sharp wit, she manages to put these experiences into well-crafted and carefully chosen words. If ever the tag "songsmith" were appropriate, then without a doubt Allard deserves to wear that label. Lyrics and music are garnered with a high amount of versatility. This album reveals an artist of rare calibre and is definitely worth more than just a listen.

[ by Michael Gasser ]



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