Various Artists

If You're Going to the City: A Tribute to Mose Allison for Sweet Relief

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If You're Going to the City: A Tribute to Mose Allison for Sweet Relief Review

by Mark Deming

Mose Allison was a tough man to pigeonhole. He had one foot in the blues with the subtle but solid melodic construction of his songs, while the other rested comfortably in jazz with the easy stride of his piano playing and his willingness to let his tunes go where they will. And while the hipster wit of his songs was frequently hilarious, the playful surfaces and ineffable cool of his music disguised the very smart turn of his melodies and the neo-beatnik literacy of his lyrics. It isn't always easy to concisely describe what Allison was doing, but it's easy to enjoy and appreciate the skill and easygoing joy of his music, and Allison had the respect of his fellow musicians as well as a dedicated fan base. 2019's If You're Going to the City: A Tribute to Mose Allison for Sweet Relief is a loving homage to the man and his music, with a dozen-plus artists of note in a program of 15 of Allison's best songs. While some of the musicians play with the frameworks of Allison's music -- most notably Robbie Fulks' fractured reading of "My Brain" and the electro-processed New Orleans vibe of Iggy Pop's "If You're Going to the City" -- most are content to find a middle ground between their own signature approach and Allison's laid-back but emphatic groove. Chrissie Hynde of the Pretenders sings "Stop This World" like she was born to it, Loudon Wainwright III's sardonic tone is just right for "Ever Since the World Ended," Bonnie Raitt sounds just as bitterly rueful as she should on "Everybody's Crying Mercy," Richard Thompson takes a rare detour into the blues on "Parchman Farm," and Taj Mahal is casually masterful on "Your Mind Is on Vacation." Frank Black's interpretation of "Numbers on Paper" is the only contribution that truly misses the mark, and the late Allison (who died in 2016) even makes a cameo appearance with the inclusion of "Monsters from the Id," a duet between Elvis Costello and Mose's daughter Amy Allison that appeared on her 2009 album Sheffield Streets. The music is often great, and proceeds from the album benefit the Sweet Relief Musician's Fund (who provide financial assistance for musicians facing health problems), so there's really no reason not to add If You're Going to the City to your collection.

Track Listing - Disc 2

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time Stream
blue highlight denotes track pick