Why Texas Music Legend Terry Allen Calls His New Album ‘Just Like Moby Dick’

It’s the songwriter’s first album in seven years.

By Leah Scarpelli & David BrownJanuary 27, 2020 1:14 pm

In the 1970s, Lubbock-born singer-songwriter and conceptual artist Terry Allen stood conventional country music on its head. Albums like “Juarez” and “Lubbock {on Everything)” featured wry, dry, satirical lyrics. Critics called these albums contemporary classics.

Last week, seven years after his last record, Terry Allen released a collection of songs that are already being celebrated as the spiritual successor to his earlier standouts. It’s an album with a curious title: “Just like Moby Dick.”

Allen says he had a working title for the album, but when he was recording the song “Sailin on Through” and ad-libbed “just like Moby Dick” at the very end of the song.

“That resonated, I think, with the whole record,” Allen says. “I changed the sequences of the songs and it built a throughline and it became one thing which is what I always try to get a record to do.”

Allen is an artist in many senses of the word. In addition to his music, he’s a sculptor. Before his death in 2016, fellow songwriter Guy Clark asked his friend Allen to use his ashes in a sculpture. Allen says that in the last couple of years of his life, Clark became obsessed with a crow’s nest made of barbed wire he had seen at the American Windmill Museum in Lubbock.

“Every time I talked to him the last three or four years of his life he would bring up that nest,” Allen says. “…It seemed to me, he was talking about a lot more than these crows. What he was talking about really was what was happening to him and so I just felt the need to make a big bronze crow. When the bronze was [in a] molten state I poured some of the ashes in it. So the whole body is made out of ashes and I opened it up and put the rest inside and sealed it.”

Allen donated the sculpture containing Clark’s ashes to the Wittliff Collections at Texas State University in San Marcos.


Written by Morgan Kuehler.