Writing about music is like dancing about architecture

Wednesday, 16 February 2011


I love this record. Its not such a strange thing to say that I love a record that I own. But I've loved it since the moment I first heard it in a record shop in west London, I loved it when I got it home and now, some five years later, I still put it on the turntable and I love it all over again.
So that's enough of me gushing. And really there is no need to read anything else I'm going to write. Stop reading right now and go on to ebay or gemm and get a copy of this.Its not expensive and has been reissued numerous times. What are you waiting for? Go on, do it now!
Still here? Well if you are you might as well read what I've got to say about it as I try and explain why I love it.
Mose Allison (you say his first name to rime with bows) was born and raised in Tippo, Mississippi - the back country of the title.
His music has always had a blues flavour to it. However, he played with many of the West Coast jazz men such as Stan Getz, Zoot Sims, Al Cohn and Bob Brookmeyer. I have a couple of Zoot Sims records with Mose Allison and he comes across as a good pianist in the 'cool' style. Its difficult to hear him as the fluid stylist he is on this record.
The first side of this 1957 record is taken up with the Back Country Suite which was written between 1945 and 1956. The ten pieces are "musical sketches based on these recollections of childhood experiences," as Ira Gitler tells us in the linears. Gitler makes explicit references to the blues influences on Allison and names a number of blues musicians. Strangely they are mainly guitarists, some electric. While the blues is definitely present in his playing I don't really hear B.B. King. But I do hear Fats Waller and Nat King Cole.
The music of the suite is happy and uptempo. It evokes pleasant times, easy times. I would guess that he looked back on his childhood with happiness. Allison's playing is smooth; sometimes, as on Warm Night he is almost into easy listening territory.  But is has a real warmth and soul that I love. You don't need to be into jazz to 'get' Mose Allison (which is probably why so many rock musicians have 'got' him!).
As he is playing in a hornless trio the music is never sharp or discordant. You can imagine people enjoying it in a night club but also in a crowded bar or even on a porch with an iced tea.
Later in his career Allison would become known for his vocal numbers. Here he only sings on two songs and when he does, his voice leaps out of the speakers. On Blues he sings 'The young man, ain't got nothing in this world'. I have to say that, although its called Blues and the words are about unhappiness, there is something in his voice that does not make me think of the blues.He re-recoded this song as Young Man Blues and it was covered by the Who.
Side two continues the jazz-blues theme as he improvises around some fairly standard blues riffs. It is part of his great ability as a musician that you do not feel he is trying too hard to impress while playing magically. I suspect that this record was, as were so many Prestige records, recorded very quickly. However, you can hear that these are songs he has played many times and truely knows.
All but one of the songs on side two are standards. I have a soft spot for his take on Blueberry Hill but he does get very close to being too smooth on I Thought About You. His version of One Room Country Shack suffers in the same way as Blues from being simply too warm and smooth to be convincing as blues and you just don't get the feeling that Mose was singing about something he had experienced.
He is ably assisted on the record by Taylor La Fargue on bass who played on a number of Allison records and Frank Isola who played with Stan Getz and Gerry Mulligan. However, it is completely Allison's record and his band mates have little space to come to the fore.
Despite the blues influences this is happy and cheerful music that always puts a smile on my face. Go and get it and I hope that you will find the same thing too.


  1. I first heard Mose whilst recovering from the darkest hangover in a Portuguese beach bar. I perhaps only made it through because of this album - and the startlingly good cheese toasties!

    Thank you for your wonderful post xxx

  2. It's worth mentioning that the darkest hangover was unduced by two of the maddest people I have ever met. Marcel and Petra from Amsterdam, if by some strange fate you ever come across this post, damn you! And... I would so dearly love to meet up to do it all over again! x

  3. Glad you like the post - sorry that you had to go through such a bad hangover first though - sounds like a living hell!!!!