Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

Mose Allison: Greatest Hits [Prestige, 1988]
Always eager to set young martini users on any path of righteousness they'll take, I duly note these piano-tinkling blues. Probably not obscure enough, I know--the goddamn Who covered "Young Man Blues," and it was Old Man Mose himself who taught middle-class white boys about "Seventh Son." What's more, his catalogue remains hopeless after three compilations--one an absurd minibox containing three mediocre CBS albums, another a two-CD Rhino job with liner notes from Kitschmaster Irwin Chusid, who wouldn't mention all the pretentious over-the-hill drivel on disc two even if he was working for free. That leaves this modest item, remastered with the wrong bonus tracks in 1988, which I first heard in 1963 and eventually bought for under two bucks (and if you want something to be nostalgic about, that price is it). Instrumentally, Allison was an accompanist who sold himself as a soloist, but when he bent his insouciant drawl to the black pop songwriting of his '40s youth, he articulated a unique Ole Miss cool that paralleled rockabilly's working-class heat. Trio-era Nat King Cole as riverboat gambler, say. Fun without slumming. A-