Mose Allison: The Way of the World (Anti)

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Mose Allison: My Brain
Mose Allison: The Way of the World (Anti)

Mose Allison is one of those slightly obscure figures whose name is often heard in interviews with the likes of Van Morrison and Elvis Costello -- and he was also the subject of a song by the Pixies.

Way back he also wrote Young Man Blues (covered famously by the Who) and Parchman Farm (covered notoriously by Blue Cheer), and the Clash did a version of his Look Here on Sandinista.

But don't let any of that fool you: Allison isn't a rocker, he's a piano-blues jazz man with a wry lyrical sensibility (the ways and woes of the world delivered with humour) and he is 82.

He also hadn't recorded an album in 12 years until Joe Henry sweet-talked him back into the studio on the promise of fun with a small band, and they got this very amusing album -- shot through with exceptional piano playing -- in just five days.

Oddly enough an archetypal Allison song here is actually from the pen of Loudon Wainwright, his droll anti-blues blues song I'm Alright: "Woke up this mornin', didn't feel that bad, last night was not the worst I'd ever had . . . I didn't miss you baby, no matter what you think, I didn't moan, I didn't cry . . . I'm alright without you".

And on the upbeat opener he notes, "My brain is always tickin' . . . as long as I am alive and kickin' "

So here are dry lyrics and his effortless delivery which seems unchanged down the decades (cf the sample track with the clip below from 21 years ago) -- but the real oil is in his stride-cum-boogie woogie piano, and the snappy and understated band which includes Emmylou Harris guitarist Greg Leisz.

There are more than sly smiles to be had however: on the title track he reflects on the death watch we are all on, and age and distance allow him to smile about his failures and lost love in a way that someone a quarter his age would take much more seriously.

But that too is the way of the world.

Unexpected -- but good stuff as expected from the great Mose Allison. 

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