Terry Allen

Juarez

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AllMusic Review by

Terry Allen is, first and foremost, a visual artist. He just happens to make brilliant, idiosyncratic albums on the side. In fact, his first album, 1975's Juarez, wasn't even initially conceived as an album, but as a set of songs recorded to accompany an artwork installation. Original copies of the album were released with a set of lithographs illustrating the characters who populate the album's world, an elliptical place where motivations and desires are often shadowy to the point of inscrutability, but the characterizations are almost three-dimensional. The story of two couples on a drinking spree that turns into a murderous chase through the southern California desert, Juarez is a tough-as-nails narrative with the deadpan, biting humor of crime fiction writers like Jim Thompson or Chester Himes. The album was recorded quickly and on a low budget, so the musical settings are ultra-spare, with Allen's whiskey-cured vocals and thumping piano often the only musical elements. As a concept album, the individual songs don't work as well out of context, but listened to as a whole, Juarez is one of the more fascinating country albums of its time, like Willie Nelson's Red Headed Stranger as reimagined by Quentin Tarantino.

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