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He's Gone Country

Jason Allen finds himself in the music he once tried to escape

"I said, 'I sing country. But if you want me to alter it a little bit to fit your needs, whatever you think the market's calling for, we could probably meet in the middle somewhere.' At that point, I'd have taken anything. If it was a major deal, let me in. And he just said, 'Well, that shows me right there you don't know what you want to be.' And that pissed me off so much that I just said, 'You know what? From now on, I'm country, and I'm traditional country. And if you don't like it, you can kiss my ass.' "

So it was back to the Lone Star State, which was okay with Allen. "Why go to Nashville when we've got our own nation here in Texas?" Allen recorded his first album, Something I Dreamed, with veteran singer and hit songwriter Clay Blaker producing, and Daily put it out on the then-newly reactivated D Records. The CD yielded a No. 1 single on the Texas Music Chart in "Lucky Arms."

You could say he was cashing in on the moment -- the Texas Music movement -- but Allen wouldn't agree. For him, there's nothing new about it. He's says it's "been going on since Willie."

Jason Allen's aw-shucks demeanor recalls the country 
singers of yore.
Jason Allen's aw-shucks demeanor recalls the country singers of yore.

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For his second album, Allen returned to the same Cherry Ridge Studios south of San Antonio -- these days most of the best true country albums in Texas are being cut there -- where he recorded his debut. And while his first outing had but one Allen composition in the clever bar singer analogy "Body and Fender Man," his new album features ten of the singer's own tunes. And it's all still as country as the countless dance halls across the state where Allen plies his trade.

Though many of the young singers and songwriters in this state are more countrified than country -- Kevin Fowler, Rodney Hayden and Ed Burleson being notable neotraditional exceptions -- Allen says, "I'm going to stand my ground." And who says the old-school style can't still succeed? After all, he and Daily have a rule of thumb for career decisions. "We always tend to fall back on what George Strait would do. He's really country and he's not going to change."

And neither will Allen, or at least not for the worse, as his second album proves. Long ago, back when he was still playing rockabilly because he thought it was cooler than country, his father told him something that has since come to guide him. "My dad finally told me, 'You want to make any money in this business, you sing country music. Everybody'll like it,' " Allen remembers. "And I did and I finally figured it out. Everybody likes it.

"And now, growing up and looking back, it's like, of course you like country music," he concludes. "It's in your blood. You can't not like it."

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