Jon Allen

“Evocative of Dylan, Cat Stevens and Nick Drake…Exemplary” Uncut

“One of the most amazing voices I’ve heard this year” Jools Holland

“Wonderfully mellow finger picking country blues…” Classic Rock

‘The new Dylan’ has been the tag line hung like a noose around the neck of many an emerging male solo artist down the years, the female equivalent being ‘the new Joni Mitchell’. More often than not the Dylan label is misleading because artists for whom it is applied bear at best a passing artistic connection to Bob Dylan and at worst no connection whatsoever.

For fear of falling into the aforementioned trap perhaps this headline of this press release should read ‘Jon Allen. Not the new Dylan’!  For a start he’s a lot taller (6.1”). He’s British and has a voice more like Rod Stewert’s than Dylan’s. (That’s the credible, Faces/first few solo album’s Rod. The best white male soul singer these isles have ever produced Rod. Did I hear someone shout ‘What about Mick Hucknall?’ No, I didn’t think so). Even though Dylan the man is short, his shoes are big and hard to fill. Without loading Allen down with the heavy Dylan mantle that has crushed so many with the weight of expectation unfulfilled it can be said without hyperbole that his music shares a natural connection with Dylan’s in its lyrical and melodic approach. Also Allen’s new album ‘Sweet Defeat’ might just be his ‘Blood On The Tracks’.  Like Dylan’s 1974 classic it’s a break up record. Far from being a purely melancholic offering it expresses the full range of emotions that love elicits from the heady abandon of the first flush of romance to the sadness and regret of love lost and hope obscured.  Recorded with the same producer and group of musicians who contributed to his acclaimed debut album ‘Dead Man’s Suit’, ‘Sweet Defeat’ is an eleven-song collection that displays the maturity and cohesiveness of an artist growing in confidence.  It builds on acoustic foundations, ranging from solo finger picked songs to the album’s title track, an upbeat number complete with a brass section that conjures up memories of Van Morrison at his soulful best.

The release of ‘Sweet Defeat’ comes exactly two years after a debut record that garnered no less than five BBC Radio 2 play-listed singles, an appearance on Later with Jools Holland and success in the rest of Europe prompting the Sunday Times to dub Allen “2009’s indie success Story”. He has certainly had very little time to sit back and take in his achievements.  His popularity in The Netherlands has been aided by the support of Holland’s biggest film star Carice Van Houten.  She discovered his music and began twittering his praises to her many followers helping make him a household name in the territory. British actor David Morrissey also name checked ‘Dead Man’s Suit’ as a favourite record in a recent Q interview.

The reason why the comparison of Allen to Dylan is not completely trite is that both artist share a set of musical influences that can clearly be traced back to pop music’s birth, its big bang, the collision of blues, country music, Jazz and Gospel that began in the 1940’s and 50’s, and grew as the pop universe grew, splitting into diverse genres in the 1960′s and 70’s at its peak.  Today’s big new pop stars seem to appear like white dwarves, burning fast and hot only to cool too soon to invisibility. In contrast, Allen, almost under the radar, orbits like a satellite of greater, older artists, bathing in the glow that they still radiate. Dylan, The Beatles, Jackson Browne, Neil Young; Luminaries still shining brightly and casting long shadows. Pop music as we know it may be entering the evening of its years but like Jon Allen, can’t we all just bask in the twilight a little while longer?