Mose Allison has long found favor among pop and rock artists. John Mayall and the Bluesbreakers adapted his arrangement of “Parchman Farm” on their 1966 album featuring Eric Clapton, and the Who included his “Young Man Blues” on their 1970 Live at Leeds. Van Morrison cut an entire album of Allison compositions in 1996, while everyone from the Yardbirds to the Clash to Leon Russell has dipped into the late Mississippi-born singer/songwriter/pianist’s extensive song catalog. So it comes as no surprise that artists as diverse as Jackson Browne, Iggy Pop, Richard Thompson, and Taj Mahal are collected on this 15-track compilation, each giving Allison’s work their own touch.
Allison’s allegiance to blues conventions and his too-hip-for-the-room demeanor are often pervasive, or at the very least implied. Chrissie Hynde’s “Stop This World” is consistent with her recent covers album, suave and sweet; Bonnie Raitt’s 2017 live take on “Everybody’s Crying Mercy” (which she cut originally back in 1973) takes a deep dive into blues territory; Pop’s reading of the title track goes heavy on the MIDI electronics; Loudon Wainwright III’s solo acoustic “Ever Since the World Ended” puts the focus squarely on Allison’s words.
The most effective tracks are those that veer just far enough from Allison’s trademarks but still leave no doubt whose songs these are: Former Blasters co-leaders Dave and Phil Alvin place “Wild Man on the Loose” into an appropriate rockabilly-esque setting, while Robbie Fulks recasts “My Brain” as surrealistic bluegrass in a Béla Fleck mold. Wrapping the consistently impressive project are Amy Allison (Mose’s daughter) and Elvis Costello, who team on a dark, laconic “Monsters of the Id,” a tune originally tucked away on Allison’s 1970 Hello There, Universe. The update, taken from Amy’s 2009 Sheffield Streets album, features Mose on piano, his playing simple and direct, just enough to remind us that he was like no other.
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