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April 2010

Mose Allison
The Way Of The World
Anti/Epitaph

Since the late ’50s, Mose Allison’s distinctive approach has combined the vocal passion of a blues musician with a bop pianist’s harmonic flair and a country performer’s storytelling acumen. But until equally idiosyncratic producer Joe Henry lured him back into a studio, Allison hadn’t recorded in 12 years, something that makes his new release, The Way of the World, even more welcome. The prolonged absence impaired neither Allison’s humor nor his acerbic wit, and the disc’s 12 selections nicely balance sentimental musings with caustic commentary.

He opens the disc with a nice reworking of Willie Dixon’s “My Babe,” only “My Brain” covers intellectual abilities rather than sexual prowess. “I’m Alright” and “The New Situation” are other tunes where Allison offers light or sentimental reflections and spry phrasing. He’s also smooth and relaxed on “Once in a While,” while he shifts into a more demonstrative tone on “Everybody Thinks You’re an Angel.”

Still, the session’s high points are the instrumental “Crush” and the memorable title track, which pairs the elder Allison with his country vocalist daughter Amy for the first time on record. “Crush” spotlights the often underrated Allison piano touch, which shows plenty of Monk influence in some of the odd (or at least unconventional) chord combinations and phrasing, plus the fluid way he holds everything together rhythmically. Father and daughter seem comfortable on “The Way of the World,” easily adjusting to differences in range and delivery while credibly conveying the song’s theme of uneasy acceptance and adjustment to harsh realities.

Henry’s restrained production and occasional smart musical flourishes (steel guitar in some places; terse, animated saxophone inserted on other occasions) provide the final touch to a wonderful comeback date.

Originally published in April 2010
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