Terry Allen turned 73 on May 7; his debut album, Juarez, which is about to get a deluxe reissue from the Paradise of Bachelors label, is over 40 years old. The man and the album are works in progress. “Juarez is still a mystery to me…how it came about, what it is,” says Allen. “I don’t expect that will change.”
Allen is now best-known as a sculptor and visual artist, and his 1979 Lloyd Maines-produced double-album Lubbock (On Everything), which will also be reissued this year, perhaps most prominently represents his connection to the city’s legendary music history. But Juarez is Allen’s urtext, a Tex-Mex/California/Colorado country-opera and concept album with themes, images, and characters that have resurfaced countless times over the decades: in Allen’s visual art (lithographs are re-produced in the reissue), in re-recorded versions of the songs, and as an influence on (or at least kindred spirit to) other musicians, artists, and writers, from David Byrne to Cormac McCarthy.
Paradise of Bachelors’ website for Juarez says Allen occupies “a unique position straddling the disparate worlds of country music and visual art,” but such a distinction isn’t even necessary. “I don’t think that way,” Allen says. “The creative process is not a limited proposition. Everything is available that you can imagine.”
Texas Tech is in the process of establishing The Allen Collection, a living archive of notes, sketches, books, and music from the work of both Allen and his wife, Jo Harvey Allen, a fellow artist, musician, and writer.* It might be the closest the Allens, who’ve mostly lived in Santa Fe since leaving Texas in the seventies, will come to living in Lubbock part-time again.
Below, a previously-unseen-on-the-Internet performance of “What Of Alicia,” a track from Juarez that was re-recorded for 1996’s Human Remains. It also features Terry and Jo Harvey Allen’s sons, Bukka Allen and Bale Creek Allen.
*Correction: A previous version of this article said the university’s “1927 historic dairy barn facility” would be renamed the Allen Collection Studio and Multipurpose Interdisciplinary Space. In fact, the facility will not be renamed. We regret the error.