True to its title, The Twilight Zone represents a turning point of sorts for Jason Allen. It's his first studio album for Smith Music, the label, run by his friend Frank Jackson, that released 2006's Liveat Gruene Hall, and he wrote all but two of the songs. "This record is a good reflection of who I am as an artist/songwriter," he says."The others [2003's Something I Dreamed and 2005's Wouldn't It Be Nice] were too, but this one is digging a little deeper."
Twilight Zone marks Allen's first time as co-producer; he and partner Tommy Detamore cut the album in three weeks at Detamore's Cherry Ridge Studio outside Flooresville, "down a long dirt road in thewoods, just like I like it," Allen says. "Although we did have a squirrel try to get in on the record - I'm not sure if he made it or not."
Allen responded well to working with Detamore. "I learned a lot hanging out with Tommy," he says. "When I write a song, I always like to imagine what it would sound like with a full production behind it. This time I got to try a few different things to see which way I likeit best - it's like having a kid and being able to dress it too."
Some songs on Twilight Zone, like "I Can't Let You Go" and "Elvis Tonight," draw as much from '50s and '60s rock and R&B as much as country, and Allen agrees, citing favorites like Roy Orbison and Buddy Holly and more contemporary inspirations such as Dwight Yoakam and Jim Lauderdale. Other songs are deeply personal - Allen wrote "He's Still Dancing With Her" after watching his dad on the dance floor one night, dancing to a song he and Allen's late mother used to dance to, and called on his father-in-law to help him finish "You Make My World Go Round."
"I wasn't sure what else there was left to say," Allen says, "[but] he got excited when he heard what I had and started coming up with lines, and it just flowed from there."
Although he didn't write Twilight Zone's title track, it has a long history with Allen's family nevertheless. "A guy by the name of Donald Overstreet wrote it when he was in prison; he was married to my aunt at one time," he says. "My dad learned it from him and added his own touch to it; now, fifty something years later, here it is. It traveled a long way to get here."
Allen's other cover is Stevie Wonder's 1984 smash "I Just Called to Say I Love You" done as a full-bore honky-tonk two-step. "I loved the song as a kid, and if you listen to the words, it's a true country song," he says. "I just had to do it."
"For me, [the album] is like turning on the radio and finding a station you want to hear," Allen adds. "I found mine."
Twilight Zone is also Allen's first album since he and wife, Holly, became first-time parents, welcoming daughter Star Marie into the world this past January. Being a father has already changed the way Allen feels about touring; "I want to get home as fast as I can these days," he says. It's also cut into his fishing time - one of Allen's best-loved songs is his "John Boat Blues," and he's even got a spot on his website for fans to post photos of their catches - but that, he hopes, is only temporary: "I can't wait to teach her how to fish."
And his first bit of fatherly advice?
"Keep that line in the water, sweetheart," he says. "Patience."
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