By James Calemine
At 82, Mose Allison stands as one of the hippest musicians in American music. His solid foundation of jazz and blues influenced artists such as The Rolling Stones, Tom Waits, Van Morrison, Leon Russell and John Mayall. He even existed as a musical staple for a while on Atlantic Records.
The Mississippi native’s latest CD–The Way of the World–is his first studio album in 12 years. Joe Henry (Jayhawks, T-Bone Burnett, Daniel Lanois) produced this latest Allison disc. Recorded in five days, this studio album contains Allison’s sharp songwriting and indelible piano style.
The Way of the World contains a balance of blues and jazz with Allison’s Beat Poet flair. All but three of these tunes count as originals. “My Brain” opens the disc, and although it’s a jazzy tune the song’s origins seems to harken back to some old blues number. “I Know You Didn’t Mean It” evokes more Beat vibrations, but Allison’s strength resides in his musical simplicity.
“Everybody Thinks You’re An Angel” maintains the disc’s laid back sonic landscape. Saxophone, guitar, piano, mandola, upright bass and drums compose the musical instruments these songs are founded upon. Subtle licks thread these compositions. “Let It Come Down” conjures images of a jazz den…smoke lingering around the blue lights. “Modest Proposal” indicates Allison’s never opposed to lighthearted material.
The instrumental, “Crush”, represents the album’s centerpiece song. A real timeless jazz classic…a nod to Thelonious Monk. The title track, co-written with Joe Henry, verifies Allison’s musical shadow covers essential generations of American music. The Way of the World would make Jack Kerouac proud…