Jon Allen – ….meanwhile
An artist that communicates a message of hope & renewal is Jon Allen’s 5th studio CD simply called …meanwhile (OK!Good Records/Drops May 21).
Though Allen has a similar raspy whiskey-soaked voice as other singers he is distinctive & knows how to keep his showcase effective. His songs are somewhat in the tradition of Marc Cohn, Jon Dee Graham & Peter Himmelman. Allen’s songs have just enough strings, driving acoustic passes, contemporary subject matter & introspective/emotional lyrics to keep his fire hot.
For a rollicking introduction “Can’t Hold Back the Sun,” will qualify. It’s excellent. By “Cruel World,” Allen steps brilliantly into Peter Himmelman-Joe Henry territory – quite well.
The lovely, well-performed, thought-provoking “Looking for the Light,” only suffers from a cliched title. It should’ve been called “The Tender Light of Home,” (words in the song) since that would say something about what it’s really about.
Another absorbing song is “Suzanne,” (charming but basically a fun pop song & not as poetic as Leonard Cohen’s “Suzanne”). Allen’s Suzanne is a song a 60s crooner like Ronnie Dove, Danny Williams, Lenny Welch & Bobby Vinton would ride straight up the charts. It has lots of mainstream/commercial appeal.
“How Long,” (another trite title) is good. It has a solid old-fashioned jazzy-blues-lounge singer appeal. “How Far Do I Have To Fall?” would’ve been a better more compelling title (words also in the song). This melody strongly suggests Billie Holiday, Sarah Vaughn & Nina Simone. Quite attractive, striking arrangement & simply Jon Allen beautiful.
“The Other Side,” continues with a more delicate intriguing ballad “show me a vision I can hang my future on.” Nice. Little lines like that add color to a song. Jon slips them in everywhere. He still needs to examine his lyrics & cross out any that suggest cliché. He has the skill for creative words. That flicker of the precise piano notes in this tune demands sharp words. It’s what legendary lyricist Oscar Hammerstein would’ve done. The idea behind a song like this is excellent.
Here I grit my teeth a bit. Another “Hold On,” song. That makes the 3 million other songs called “Hold On,” move down the line. The track itself is urgent but cliched to death. It’s credible, saturated with an attractive driving melody, the idea is good. But there has to be another way to get around those 2 cliched words. Maybe “Hang On,” “Struggle On,” “Carry On,” or simply “Go On.” Anything but “Hold On.”
Of course, the slowest song on the CD is the closer “Wrong,” — it’s superb. One of the best. Smooth sincerity in Allen’s voice with arid instrumentation warm & soothing. Cliches aside, every tune has class.
The 11-songs @ 39-minutes was produced by Jon (guitar/drums) with musicians: Rich Milner (Hammond organ), Luke Bullen, Adam Skinner & Pat Levett (drums), Sharon Shannon (button accordion), & Adam Skinner (string arrangements). The CD is available @ http://www.okgoodrecords.com/ &