Pedal StealAlbum |
A surreal, haunting ballet score sketching out the life and death of a hell-raising pedal steel guitarist
Following a handful of quirky alt-country albums like Lubbock (On Everything) and Bloodlines, Terry Allen confused even his fans with this 1985 release. Not a conventional song-based album, Pedal Steal consists of a single 35:31 track that combines a handful of Allen's original tunes, snatches of familiar hymns and pop melodies, and Native American chants with dialogue, recitations, and at one point, even a vintage McDonald's commercial. It was originally commissioned as the score for a ballet by San Francisco choreographer Margaret Jenkins: the set featured dancers drifting through a recreation of an abandoned west Texas drive-in theater. But even without the visuals, Pedal Steal is a gripping narrative. Loosely based on the story of one Wayne Gailey, a hell-raising New Mexican pedal steel guitarist who died of a drug overdose in 1977, Pedal Steal is surreal and at times horrifying, but it's leavened by Allen's bone-dry wit and a smattering of lovely tunes like the closing "Give Me the Flowers." Those who just want the songs can check out Allen's Salivation, which features re-recorded versions of them all, but it's better to hear them in context.