REVIEW: Fat Possum’s “If You’re Going to the City: A Tribute to Mose Allison”

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If You’re Going to the City: A Tribute to Mose Allison available via Fat Possum Records on November 29th features performances from a wide variety of artists including Taj Mahal, Jackson Browne, Bonnie Raitt, Chrissie Hynde, Iggy Pop, Ben Harper, Robbie Fulks, Loudon Wainwright III, Peter Case, Richard Thompson, Dave and Phil Alvin, Frank Black, and Elvis Costello. Each artist brought their own group of talented performers to flesh out their interpretation of some of Mose Allison’s finest songs. Some artists lean closer to straight interpretation of Allison’s style and musicality while others push Allison’s songs into uncharted territory.

Iggy Pop tackles the title track, Allson’s “If You’re Going to the City,” on an approach that embraces his recent moody lounge singer work over his venom spitting past. At once the most unusual and most reward take on Allison’s work in this collection, Pop and his compatriot’s arrangement abandons Allison’s arrangement without jettisoning its core. Pop’s throaty interpretation adds extra weight to this synthesizer and horn new-age-meets-New-Orleans-funeral-march. Even Pop falls prey to the absurdity of life in the city as he laughs through his admonishment to, “stay in school.” Loudon Wainwright III tackles “Ever Since the World Ended” and makes it his own with acoustic guitar acrobatics and a mellow delivery, “ever since the world ended, I face the future with a smile,” he sings. Peter Case’s take on “I Don’t Worry About a Thing” plays it closer to Mose’s arrangement with piano front-and-center augmented by bass and drums as he announces, ”I don’t worry about a thing cause I know nothing’s gonna be alright.” Dave and Phil Alvin give “Wild Man on the Loose” a Blasters’ style makeover replete with punchy angry guitar over a bed of Hammond B3. Robbie Fulks’ approach to “My Brain” accentuates the confusion of anxious brain via confused banjo plucks and noises before the melody takes form. Once the tune of “This Train is Bound for Glory” is established Fulks’ crew runs in divergent yet connected paths that push and pull the ears to encompass all the unknown nuances that make up the thoughts constantly running in our brains. The track ebbs and flows between a cacophony of competing sounds and a tight unit with single-minded purpose; the result is a roller coaster ride through “My Brain”. Jackson Browne approaches “If You Live” with his signature country folk rock while Bonnie Raitt similarly melds “Everybody’s Crying Mercy” to her electric blues traditionalism. “I don’t believe the things I’m seeing, I’m wondering about the things I’ve heard, everybody’s crying mercy, but they don’t know the meaning of the word,” she soothes. “Everyone is crying peace on Earth just as long as we win the war,” Raitt continues. Although written by Allison in response to the Vietnam War, Raitt’s reflections remind us how little society has progressed in the intervening four and a half decades.

If You’re Going to the City: A Tribute to Mose Allison offers both a fun addition to the Allison fan’s collection and an enjoyable entry point for less familiar listeners. Allison’s jazz and blues sensibilities are on display, as is his ironic humor and whit, but also showcased are the aspects of Allison’s song craft which transcend simple genre definitions. “Stop this world, let me off, there’s just too many pigs in the same trough, there’s too many buzzards sitting on the fence, stop this world it’s not making sense,” sings Chrissie Hynde on “Stop This World” reflecting an attitude we’ve all felt at one time or another. If You’re Going to the City on the stereo the world becomes a little more bearable for a little while longer; pick up your copy today – out on Fat Possum Nov 29: https://www.fatpossum.com/artists/mose-allison/

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