Ah, the struggling musician. Scrapping for endless gigs, hungry for that first Big Break. Then there is other kind of musician. Honing raw talent, playing with friends, playing for fun, experiencing life, sitting down to write the occasional song about it. Eventually, they have a rather fat notebook, the right connections, studio time and a team of friends to make a dream come true. The solo release that takes months (years?) of frustration, happy accidents and final victory to complete. Scott Allen's "My Own Grown Eyes" is just such a record.
Allen is a central Minnesota bass player, lending his talents to many projects but most notably as the Lead singer of "Slippery People", the kinetic tribute to Talking Heads that recently wowed 'em during a return engagement at The Fine Line in Minneapolis. Now, with producer and multi-instrumentalist Patrik Tanner, Allen has released a fun, inspiring and uplifting 12-song testimony that echoes the joys of Semisonic, Wilco, the little known Canadian band Moxy Fruvous and the first solo LP from Tal ("She's So High") Bachman, a smash hit in 1999. The songwriting is brilliant and relatable, the musicianship superb and the production values are top notch, courtesy of Tanner who also delivers guitar, piano, keys, percussion, autoharp, banjo, mandolin and backing vocals.
The songs, words and music all written by Allen, feature clever word play and rhymes solidly rooted in our newly found strange reality. Kicking off with "The Finest Hour" (reminding us that sometimes the most fun is when we "make a face in the window, laughing out loud") the journey continues with lively pop hooks, ballads and love songs (Allen's got a unique voice and his delivery is superb, backing vocals by Andra Suchy increase the joy tenfold) before slamming into the delightfully angst-ridden trifecta of "Family Christmas Knife Fight" (as much fun as you THINK it will be, propelled by tenor sax player Jeff King and Setzer drummer Noah Levy!), "Black Ice Freeway" (a relatable "hang on tight!" metaphor if ever there was one) and "Sugarcoat" (as in "I'm not gonna sugarcoat this POS"). Mad props to Tanner for arranging the tracks to showcase the diversity of Allen's songwriting and keep us properly fastened in for the ride.
All in all, "My Own Grown Eyes" is a relatable, feel good LP with a Summer 90's vibe from a late Boomer whose life experience has treated him well. Sometimes raw talent is overshadowed by a caustic personality. No one has ever said that about Scott Allen. His debut is a winner by any measure and Friday's release show at the Hook and Ladder will be his opportunity to prove it. We'll be playing, belting out and recommending this set all Winter!
--Andy Watson, ANDVD Media