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06/15/14

Jackie Allen
My Favorite Color
Avant Bass

Eight years’ absence from the recording studio has done nothing to diminish Jackie Allen’s allure. The voice—dusky, mellow and wise—is as spellbinding as ever, now shot through with a captivating world-weariness, her folk-rock roots clearly showing. Though My Favorite Color’s inclusive playlist includes a tender, bruised “Born to Be Blue,” the album’s title is to be taken figuratively, Allen exploring various musical hues and shades that intrigue her.

There are jazz standards: a lithe “A Sleepin’ Bee” that seems plucked fresh from an antebellum plantation; a gorgeous, near-baroque rendering, alone with guitarist John Moulder, of “Blame It on My Youth”; and an extraordinary “My Man’s Gone Now” that progresses from woe to rage before it settles into resigned gloom.

There’s a delightfully curious assortment of rock and pop hits, stretching from the depths of Jimi Hendrix’s “Manic Depression” and dejection of Bacharach and David’s “A House Is Not a Home” to the sass and slither of Stealers Wheel’s “Stuck in the Middle With You,” its funk gloriously reimagined by a collective that includes keyboardist Ben Lewis, drummer Dane Richeson, bassist Hans Sturm, trumpeter Tito Carillo and saxophonist Steve Eisen.

Finally there are Allen originals, two exquisite pieces: the lilting “Diana,” a cautionary tale of abandoning bohemian freedom for fenced-in security; and the icebound “Call Me Winter,” a labyrinthine voyage of self-discovery co-crafted with Illinois Poet Laureate GE Murray.

Originally published in June 2014
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