Jon Allen

Blue Flame

(Monologue Records)

Easily one of our favourite songwriters, Allen has a husky, soulful voice to be envied and a way with a tune. Females love his intimate delivery and the chaps marvel at his melodic and emphatic guitar playing and slivers of harp. He seems to have endless original songs to draw from but doesn’t flood the market. Stepping back, a lot of his appeal centres on what he doesn’t have. He has no urge to draw on histrionics, no wish to shout or over-emote. He does not adopt a cod-American accent. He does not play in a flashy way, just enough to put the songs over. Recording his voice requires no gimmicks or AutoTune. So all this puts him in the bracket of quality songwriters whose records you will still be enjoying years from now.

Jonah’s Whale the opening cut does underline Jon’s intention to make an upbeat record, flecked with a soul vibe. The bass is steady, the vocal plaintive, the chorus memorable and those grainy horns chip away over the Hammond chording. In his vocal range, there is a Sting-in-the-right-key touch some of the time. The organ break is short, rich and creamy. This is Allen’s brand of soul, not aping Memphis acts but working with many familiar ingredients.

Keep On Walking has a vocal that sounds fantastic and very much atypical Jon. Although his phrasing is often very American, the actual vocal timbre avoids copying a Yank accent. That is evidently a skill that didn’t finish with the passing of my pal Robert Palmer. The electric piano tone sounds cool and the later guitar break fades far too soon. Since You Went Away takes its time, enveloping the listener in soft waves of sound. Everyone that ever loved Bill Withers or San Francisco’s Jesse Barish really needs to hear this artist. Sadness never sounded so sweet.

It’s Just The End Of The World is a springheeled and stealthy and the horn arrangement does have echoes of the Hodges at work, the sandpapered vocal however a long way from The Reverend. A sudden stop and then we are into the pastoral and descriptive If You Change Your Mind. A truly gorgeous melody treads through this one and somehow the mood is a tad Randy Newman. Maybe the best number in this programme, classic middle eight and all. On to Tightrope with its regular chugging beat. A song of anguish and longing, yet like Al Jarreau, Allen can put this ambience over with no whiff of corn.

Hold You In My Heart has a stately feel and the lyric delivered in an almost hymnal manner. Jon does not twist and elongate notes, he maintains what is essentially a tuneful narrative and sets it to the cadence of his chordal progressions. The Hammond here evokes The Band and the tune itself would not have been out of place on National Skyline. The guitar runs are too brief, Jon can afford to let this one stretch in a show. Only a suggestion!

Elemental acoustic and guitar make the soothing Better Day, a song of gentle comfort and optimism and I envy his ability to create such a soft but uplifting composition that will surely find its way into the hearts of many. Stay sounds like a set opener and you almost expect Billy Paul to start singing out over the jangly axe chording and crisp drumming. He handles the lyric well, sounding romantic and wired. Check the excellent bass guitar counterpointing on this outing. Next up my favourite cut, Waking Dream which just floats, poetic words rolling by and that edge-of-falsetto which finds Allen at the top of his range. This is the closest I have heard him come to Nick Drake or more likely David Ackles. A great and different inclusion. Cries out for a trumpet, though! Finally we hear Blue Flame the title cut and it has a real Spooner Oldham ambience, easygoing soft funk and psychy heat-haze strings over the Rhodes chording. Hot summer day music you can lose yourself in…

It does sound as though these songs have been around forever. That, put simply, is the art of Jon Allen.

Pete Sargeant



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(Thanks Dave)

Jon Allen's new studio album 'Blue Flame' is released on Friday 18th May 2018 on Monologue Records.

In addition, Allen will embark on a headline UK Tour in May/June 2018 and will the special guest for Dionne Warwick's Autumn 2018 UK and European Tour. He will also support Jools Holland and His Rhythm and Blues Orchestra in Winter 2018 in Scotland. 

To pre-order tha album and for more information visit his official website here: http://bit.ly/2DGE1Lc

Jon Allen