So busy was Allen Toussaint in the wake of his late-2000s revival, he didn't wind up entering a recording studio to begin work on a sequel to his 2009 jazz album, The Bright Mississippi, until 2013 (2013's Songbook consisted of live recordings from 2009). A few solo sessions happened that year, followed by a round with a band and guests in October 2015 and then he died a few weeks later, passing away in Madrid, Spain while on tour. Producer Joe Henry, who helmed The Bright Mississippi, pulled together American Tunes for a posthumous release in the summer of 2016. Tonally, American Tunes isn't much different from its predecessor, yet its elegiac elegance doesn't come from a place of despair: it's a wistful look back at his past and home.
Stone the Crows was a tough-luck, working class, progressive soul band that came out of the pubs of Scotland in the early '70s. They had everything going for them at the start: not one, but two gritty singers, a talented guitarist, a rhythm section that had played with John Mayall, and the name recognition of having Led Zeppelin manager Peter Grant as their producer. Despite favorable reviews by the critics, however, they never managed to sell their hybridized soul music to a large audience. In addition, they lost two of their key members early on, one of whom was tragically electrocuted, and the group broke up after four albums. Their biggest contribution to rock was the immense vocal talent of one Maggie Bell. Winner of several Top Girl Singer awards in Britain, Bell had a raunchy, gutbucket voice that, although it fell short of the naked emotion and range of Janis Joplin's, came probably closer to her style than any other female singer.
This is Allen's first solo album which he recorded years after leaving the legendary Soft Machine and soon after forming the anarchic, experimental and drug-inspired ensemble Gong. The album's highlights include the moody 'Memories' with Robert Wyatt on vocals, one of the finest tracks to come out of the so-called 'Canterbury Sound', and the rocking opener 'Time Of Your Life' is a showcase for Allen's guitar pyrotechnics.