R.I.P. Mose Allison

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R.I.P. Mose Allison

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In the same week we lost Leonard Cohen and Leon Russell we lost another giant too – singer-songwriter and pianist in Mose Allison.

Not quite as recognised in the mainstream as the other two, Allison was however massive in jazz and blues circles over a 5-6 decade period, and a major influence on the British and subsequently international rock of the ‘60s though covers of his work by John Mayall, the Yardbirds, Georgie fame, The Who and even Blue Cheer, whose versions of "Young Man Blues" and "Parchman Farm" respectively were particularly loud and blaring. These last two at least were surely anathema to the man himself, whose music was never loud, never blaring, always quiet and controlled. Ironically, especially when talking in the context of the late ‘60s Who and their mod roots, it was this buttoned down reserve and sophisticated groove that seemed to make Allison’s music so appealing to the London modernists earlier in the decade.  

A lot of people who only know him from the writing credits have assumed Allison was African-American, but he was a white man, born in 1927 and raised in Mississippi, in the midst of the blues. He moved to New York in 1956 and launched a jazz career, making a mark in 1959 with the Mose Allison Sings album. In addition to blues material by the likes of Sonny Boy Williamson (“Eyesight To The Blind” – another song that The Who learned off Mose) and Willie Dixon (“The Seventh Son”), the album included the original composition "Parchman Farm" which John Mayall would popularise in the UK.

After the initial wave of interest in his songs, he would continue to have his material picked up by others. Bonnie Raitt and Leon Russell recorded material, as did Van Morrison, Elvis Costello, The Clash and many others. He recorded his final studio album, for Californian label Anti- (home of Tom Waits, Mavis Staples etc) in 2010.

It was his original songs with which Allison made his substantial mark. He was both satirist and social critic and his clear-eyed yet laconic songs were rich in detail and dry humour and he used the plainest language to make the most precise observations; similarly his music maintained a seemingly bare-boned structure but said so much. To celebrate his life and work, we present here a selection of his tunes, including a few of the early songs that were picked up by the young Britsh bluesmen in the mid-60s, and we’ll finish off with a wonderful track by Mose’s daughter Amy Allison who has been following in her father’s footsteps since making her first album in the mid-‘90s.

Parchman Farm

I’m Not Talking

Young Man's Blues

Your Mind Is On Vacation

Your Molecular Structure

I Don’t Worry About A Thing

Middle Class White Boy

Ever Since I Stole The Blues

Amy Allison - The Whiskey Makes You Sweeter

- DL

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