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.