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Harley Allen

Another River – 1996 (Mercury)

Reviewed by Jon Weisberger

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CDs by Harley Allen

No matter what kind of country you prefer, you've probably heard some of Harley Allen's songs; his material has been recorded by acts ranging from bluegrass' Petticoat Junction and IIIrd Tyme Out to mega-stars like Garth Brooks and Alan Jackson.

With this, Allen becomes the latest bluegrasser to make the move to country, and he's done an outstanding job. Don't expect banjos and a high lonesome sound; though Allen has a high tenor capable of bending a note inside out. Here, he plays it straight, and with musical backup to match; it's thoroughly modern, but thoroughly intelligent country. The material is strong - no surprise there - and is delivered in a polished yet emotional style, with Rhonda Vincent's harmony vocals providing an extra measure of soul.

Both the songs and the arrangements carry strong echoes of sources as diverse as The Beatles, Waylon Jennings and Allen's father, bluegrass legend Red Allen. Enduring country music has always lived along the border between innovation and tradition; that territory's been home to Harley Allen for over 20 years, and now, at long last, he's getting the chance to show us around. Don't miss the ride.