Reviews

Jon AllenJon Allen
Album: Deep River
Label: Monologue
Tracks: 11
Website: http://www.jonallensongs.co.uk

That no less a luminary than Jools Holland insisted Jon Allen by given his TV debut on Later… on the strength of poking his Shazam app at the radio, tells you plenty about the weight of expectation that surrounds Jon Allen releases these days. If his first album 2009's Dead Man's Suit provided the perfect calling card - it was his track In Your Light that so impressed Jools - the wave gained pace came as he hooked up with London-based 60s purists The Seldom Scene to cover Duffy's hit Mercy in a version that knocked the original out of the park.

Allen's next album, the plaintive Sweet Defeat, yielded the radio hit Joanna, a spot on the Beeb's Glastonbury coverage and a celebrity fan base expanded to include Mark Knopfler, Bob Harris, Jo Whiley and Guy Chambers.

This third album is his most assured work to date. While his voice remains rooted in folk and country blues, it is perfectly poised, controlled, rich with character and packs a punch when called for. Musically he's as at home accompanying the beautiful and mordant Hummingbird Blues with a soft guitar as he is striding out on the R&B stomp of Fire In My Heart, which invokes late 70s Dylan, or driving the arresting funk blues of Get What's Mine.

Elsewhere, the progressions in title track call to mind classic Neil Young complete with a sumptuous three-part harmony on the chorus and the gentle rasp of Wait For Me has the feel of prime-period John Martyn.

The sweet southern soul of Loving Arms puts a call in to Rev Al Green and compounds the stirring with some gloriously churchy backing vocals; while Keep Moving On recalls the late lamented Terry Callier's folk-flecked jazz-soul.

In short, Deep River is not a record to be limited by labels, but the work of an artist refusing to freeze in the headlights of early attention. Instead he's taking the kudos and using it to plough his own furrow.

Nick Churchill
www.thegranvillechambers.co.uk