ALLARD, "Loose Change and Spare Parts"
(Reckless Abandon Music)
takes her time between making albums. But she certainly used the
years well -- since her last one, Rough Lines in 1996, she has
managed to grow artistically in a big way. She added more variety
to her music and spiced her act up with even better songwriting.
Americana is her trade, but whether you call it that or whether
you insist it's alternative country or whatever term is hip right
now, the fact remains that she was always very good and now she's
become even better.
to Allard's lyrics on Loose Change and Spare Parts, you
will realize immediately the one thing that sets her apart from
the bulk of artist in the same field: she writes lyrics that are
not easily categorized. She manages to pen humorous songs just
as well as songs about lost souls. So many of her competitors
belong exclusively to the eternally depressed and introspective
bunch. Don't get me wrong, that kind produces lots of great music,
but after listening to so many albums which took me to the bottom
of the human existence, it's more than a little refreshing to
be reminded that life can have other shades, too.
considerable talent on the six-string Taylor guitar and her slightly
husky and funky alto voice are the heart of her music, the source
and inspiration for her sound. Allard has reserved a prominent
place on this album for harmonica whizz Gary Green, who for years
was gigging with her on a regular basis. An upright bass is used
on all of the tracks, providing for a warm and and natural feeling
throughout the recording. On the title track, the bass and harmonica
realize a jazz-inspired smoky bar atmosphere and the soaring lap
steel adds the dry favor of Texan music. Other songs like "Reckless
Abandon" and "Words You Can Not Say"
are closer to the country vein; the latter includes a magnificent
mandolin solo. "Squeaky Wheel" changes direction
slightly again and turns out to be a steaming and hard-hitting
country blues piece.
La Rosie," Allard pictures a woman's emotionally bleak
life with almost brutal honesty: "Driven by the darkness
/ and the pounding in her brain / Rosie goes to La La Land / and
never feels a thing." There are the dreams of hitting the
road again after a long time in "We'll have Elvis"
and there's the whacky "The Television," about
the endless promises the TV set blares out without end, which
makes the storyteller think of blowing it up in order to silence
it for good.
a wonderful observator of human strengths and frailties. With
a keen eye and a sharp wit, she manages to put these experiences
into well-crafted and carefully chosen words. If ever the tag
"songsmith" were appropriate, then without a doubt Allard
deserves to wear that label. Lyrics and music are garnered with
a high amount of versatility. This album reveals an artist of
rare caliber and is definitely worth more than just a listen.