Bukka Allen McGonigel’s Mucky Duck October 30, 2007
Better Than: Other Texas Music son acts. Much, much better.
Download: “Behold What You Found” or “Confidante” at www.screendoormusic.com
For the release of new CD Confidante, longtime Jack Ingram sideman Bukka Allen brought his partners in Screen Door Music, cellist Brian Standifer and guitarist Rob Gjersoe, along to play, and they played like Gypsies. In a short, one-set show that lasted barely an hour, the group sampled tunes from Confidante and played several moody instrumental pieces from their film-score works.
Only two months ago, I saw Allen backing his father Terry at the Mucky Duck in a similar three-piece ensemble; unfair as they may be, comparisons are inevitable and further compelled by the obvious similarities between the two Allens’ styles. Sonically, much of Tuesday’s performance seemed to riff off Terry’s last major studio album Salivation.
Songs like “Run,” “Behold What You Found,” “World of Pretend” and “Confidante” leave no doubt young Bukka has been paying attention and doing his homework. The lyrics contain the wry venom, apocalyptic edge and West Texas zen that the elder Allen has practically patented. This is a very good thing. I can’t think of many young emerging artists whose lyrics are ahead of their voices, but Bukka is a most compelling word-crafter.
Also a much more accomplished pianist than his father, Allen led his drumless ensemble along vectors somewhere between chamber music and a jukebox in the brothel at the end of the world. On “Confidante,” Allen pounded a two-fisted piano blues as Gjersoe stomped pedals and put his acoustic guitar into Hendrix “Machine Gun” psychedelic mode and Standefer created walls of rhythm by spanking his cello with his bow. The effect was hypnotic.
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“Run” also caught an interesting musical vibe that conjured both Rufus Wainwright and Tori Amos. With Standefer’s cello deepening the atmospherics, Allen easily captures the drama that is a heavy part of his father’s musical motif. Vocally, he’s just learning to front the show as a vocalist, learning to play with his voice, searching for that dangerous swagger, punch-you-in-the-face sneer, and honky tonk randiness that punctuates his father’s best work. Bukka doesn’t have quite the years to have gained his elders’ gravitas yet, but he’s already so close at such a young age. Given time and more performances, he’ll be a most compelling singer.
The tiny crowd that witnessed this performance was disappointing and inversely proportional to the talent and originality onstage. Hopefully by the next time young Mr. Allen and his stellar cohorts return, word will have spread that there’s something new, different and artistic in the Texas Music world that should not be missed.
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: Any cellist who beats his instrument sado-masochistically with his bow and makes Gypsy music covered in a patina of West Texas dust pushes all the right buttons.
Random Detail: Dr. Nightfly received a text message in the midst of one song. Dr. Nightfly receives text messages like they were silver bullets with his name on them.
By the Way: You 20 people who saw this show either have great radar or just wandered in off the street at a most opportune moment. – William Michael Smith