When a package arrived from China under the name John Muller, I was curious and puzzled all at the same time - not many packages arriving at my home in Clifton, New Jersey from China these days. Then, I remembered a message from Eric Allen saying that he would be sending a CD to me from China and that it would take a while due to customs and mailing issues. I was curious as to why the CD was coming from China. Then, the pieces of the puzzle began to fit somewhat together as the package arrived on my doorstep one afternoon, and I took the time to delve deeper into the intriguing life of this fascinating musician and songwriter.
Let's say that Eric Allen has led an interesting life, to say the least. If the blues is about life’s journeys, the shortcomings, the successes, all the hopes and the dreams, the failures, the disappointments, redemption, and salvation, then Eric Allen is most certainly a bonafide blues man in every sense of the word. He grew up in Indiana. Though legally blind, Eric began playing in his father’s country band at the age of 4! He went to college, earned a law degree, then took a position as an Ivy League professor. From this, Eric took a job in Manhattan, working for a legal publisher, and teaching legal writing at a local university at the same time. When does the man sleep? After living and working in Manhattan for more than a decade, Eric decides to leave the mind-altering pace and the dizzying frenzy behind and sets off to travel to other countries. So, how does Eric wind up living and working as a bluesman in China? Wait...there's much more.....
In 2018, the passing of his dad and the destruction of his sister's California home due to the wildfires in Malibu led Eric to a life-altering decision. If the fire was not destructive enough in itself, the home held many of the family's precious family memories, and all of that was forever lost.
“I knew some Chinese people, and had learned some things about Chinese culture and food while in New York,” Eric said. To get a more in-depth feeling and understanding of China, he visited it four times between 2008 and 2012, and then eventually moved to Beijing in 2012. “I traveled for a couple of years, and since I enjoyed my time in China, I settled down in Beijing. Now, after living in China for nearly a decade, I am still amazed by everything here, especially the high-speed trains, which are very safe and fast. We don’t have that in the US. China is doing great in many areas, especially infrastructure,” Eric described his life in China.
For more than 10 years, Eric has toured throughout Asia and has become well-known and recognized for his signature solo acoustic blues vibe. In China, Eric finds himself more at peace, able to connect to a more manageable musician network. Here, Eric is able to more easily compose and write lyrics.
“I used to listen to Buddhist chants when I lived in New York,” he said. “At that time, I would take part in Buddhist meditation. There are various examples of this subculture in New York, activities that promote Eastern spirituality. People see this as a peaceful alternative to their hectic and busy everyday life in NYC.”
Now, the diverse upbeat rhythms of the Uyghur, Tibetan, and Inner Mongolian music give Eric strength in life and nourish his soul.
Eric worked with an international group of directors to create 13 videos, one music video per track from the Prowlin' Lobo Blues sessions, an interesting and unique concept that matches the pace and feel of each song.
So, what is a "Prowlin' Lobo"? "A traveler, a seeker, a runner, a vagabond, a fugitive, a dreamer, a playboy, but all with powerful memories that continually stir a nostalgia, a longing, and even guilt that perpetuates the unsettled heart" - Eric Allen
With international musicians, live in the studio, and some remotely due to COVID, Eric Allen has created a musical tapestry that spans the American musical landscape. From a musician now based in China, Eric has embodied the spirit of "the Blues", tearing down the borders and the mistrust, bringing the music, and the lyrics, front, and center for the world to enjoy. Eric takes us on a train ride, riding the rails carefree, just like a vagabond, a dreamer, with each stop experiencing new people, and new places, and enjoying the exciting discoveries along the way. With his voice a raspy hoarseness, reminiscent of Tom Waits chewing sandpaper, Eric brings his stories to life - tales of desperados, outlaws, being chased and hunted down; depression-era hobos forced to leave their families to find work, riding the rails from place to place; vengeful lovers, a cheating spouse, a roscoe burner, swamp alligator, and a lucky conjure hand; the lifelong struggles of musicians to make a living doing what they love; bootleggers smuggling alcohol by way of the train from Moose Jaw, Canada, to Chicago; songs of heartbreak, redemption, freedom, uncertainty, and hometown nostalgia. Ride the rails with Eric Allen and enjoy the trip.
Certain tracks need a mention here like: "Fire in the Canyon" which features Inner Mongolian throat singing from Inner Mongolian musician - Tamir - who also plays horsehead fiddle; "Workin' On The Blues" is an acoustic blues mash-up that features the driving funk of Eric Allen’s guitar and the fantastic trumpet of Noah Hokker; "Somewhere Beyond" is one of the most beautiful, moving, deeply spiritual acoustic blues that I have heard in some time; "Penance" is an acoustic blues master class all unto itself, an acoustic track that speaks volumes in its simplicity; and "Tomcat Stroll" has the blues harp howling in the background, a tomcat getting ready to pounce, and when Kenny Leonore breaks in on piano, you have the real deal blues, and it seldom gets better than this.
Prowlin' Lobo Blues features authentic blues with dashes of country and bluegrass, and an interesting mix of instruments that include banjo, mandolin, horsehead fiddle, washboard, and Inner Mongolian throat singing in addition to harmonica, upright bass, and folksy guitar picking. All songs were written by Eric Allen from 2019-2021, 5 solo tracks, duo, trio, and full band tracks. Eric's music speaks to everyone, and his songwriting comes directly from his heart, reflecting life experiences past, and contemporary musings, with hopes for the future. Well done! Couldn't wait to get my hands on Prowlin' Lobo Blues and with every listen comes many more exciting listening experiences to enjoy and musical treasures to discover. Yes, "the Blues'' is worldwide and a part of everyone's lives.
Reviewed by: John Muller
Produced by: Self-Released
Artist Website: https://www.facebook.com/ericallen40years/