Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Mose Allison -- The Way of the World

The Way of the World

Back about 30 years ago, Mose Allison used to come through town occasionally and his shows were absolutely required listening to we who knew we were musically hip (or, at least, thought we were). We’d sit in really bad joints like the Rising Sun and listen to him play – sometimes with local pickup musicians who couldn’t quite figure out his timing – great original tunes like “Your Mind is on Vacation,” probably the ultimate putdown song, “Everybody’s Cryin’ Mercy,” “Your Molecular Structure,” and “Parchman Farm,” or a weird, jazzy covers of surprising choices like Hank Williams’ “Hey Good Lookin’” or “You Are My Sunshine.”

We all thought that Mose was one of the hippest old guys we’d ever encountered (actually, Mose then, would have been younger than I am now). Now, at age 82, and on his first studio album in 12 years, Mose is still one of the hippest guys around as he plays his patented blend of blues and jazz with occasional suggestions of country and folk.

That hipness is obvious right from the get-go on The Way of the World when Mose opens with “My Brain,” on which he puts original lyrics to the template of Willie Dixon’s “My Babe” to wittily expound on the efficaciousness of his aging brain cells (of which there is no doubt).

Mose is still a terrific piano player – listen to “Crush,” a Monkish instrumental – and he’s still singing with that distinctive and unmistakable Mose Allison phrasing.

Among the highlights are original songs like “Modest Proposal,” a sly indictment of all those who presume to speak on behalf of God, and “The Way of the World,” co-written with producer Joe Henry, a bit of homespun philosophy from someone who’s been around long to have a handle on the ways of the world; and such covers as “I’m Alright,” Loudon Wainwright III’s kiss-off to an ex, and “Everybody Thinks You’re an Angel,” written by daughter Amy Allison and featuring some very nice, folkish slide guitar playing by Greg Leisz.

Speaking of Amy Allison, father and daughter do an odd, but charming, duet on Buddy Johnson’s “This New Situation,” that, coming at the very end of the album, almost seems like a passing of the torch.

--Mike Regenstreif

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