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Jon Allen - Dead Man's Suit

Jon Allen, Dead Man's Suit

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 3 out of 5

JON Allen is a folk rock singer-songwriter whose career thus far has been marked by two things: Firstly, his refusal to opt into the mainstream and to keep doing things independently; and secondly, getting his song Going Home onto a Land Rover advertising campaign.

Now that we arrive at his debut album Dead Man’s Suit, however, the real test is here. Can he cut it over the course of a whole LP?

Yes and no. Allen is an accomplished musician who wears his influences on his sleeve. There’s the folk-rock of the late ’60s and early ’70s, as well as the pop style of classic singer such as Rod Stewart, married to the same sort of vibe that has helped James Morrison, James Blunt and Paolo Nutini become household names of late.

Hence, ballads trade places with gutsy folk-rock tracks in a way that’s pretty reminiscent of a lot of artists past and present.

Allen’s voice is distinct and husky. But while that helps out on the album’s best moments, it’s a little too prone to easy comparisons on the more ballady moments.

The highlights include album opener Dead Man’s Suit, a starting point that kicks things off on the type of high the remainder of the album struggles to replicate. The folksy guitars blend well with some great organs and a lived-in set of vocals that lend the track a nicely bluesy vibe.

Crowd favourite In Your Light, meanwhile, slows things down to ballad form and comes over all Rod Stewart – strikingly so. It’s easy on the ear but a bit of a comedown after the high of the opening track.. and more indicative of what to expect from the rest of the LP.

Going Home is laidback and moody in a Ray Lamontagne kind of way… and lyrically perfectly suited to the Land Rover campaign it was picked up for. It’s another highlight.

But Down By The River and Sleeping Soul are good without really making any kind of lasting impression, and it’s not really until Young Man Blues that the album kicks back into gear with another dose of folk-rock. It’s a wake-up call that arrives just in time.

Bad Penny and album closer Friends (with its Dylan-esque mouth organ interludes) draw things to a suitably pleasant finale, but you can’t help feeling a little underwhelmed. When Allen is on form, he’s great. But there’s too much album filler along the way… and that mars the LP’s repeat feelgood factor. Nevertheless, he’s one to watch for the future.

Download picks: Dead Man’s Suit, Going Home, Young Man Blues, Bad Penny, Friends

Track listing:

  1. Dead Mans Suit
  2. In Your Light
  3. Going Home
  4. Down By The River
  5. Sleeping Soul
  6. Happy Now
  7. Take Me To Your Heart
  8. Lay Your Burden Down
  9. Young Man’s Blues
  10. New Year’s Eve
  11. Bad Penny
  12. Friends