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Issue Date: November 2010 Issue

Listener Supported

Chris Allen teams with producer Don Dixon for his new homemade and fan-financed solo release.
Jeff Niesel

A couple years ago, when the music business slipped into the funk from which it still hasn't recovered, singer-songwriter Chris Allen decided it was time to embrace a do-it-yourself approach.

He'd been on various labels with his former band, Rosavelt, and inked a deal with Amsterdam-based Rosa Records for his 2006 solo effort, The Big Apple Circus. But Allen's new release, Acetate, was a $9,000 self-financed affair bankrolled almost entirely by fans, whom he offered an executive producer credit in exchange for donations ranging from $100 to $400.

"It's been amazing — the people who have supported me in this town," Allen says. A release party is set for Nov. 13 at The Happy Dog. "It's original music they care about, and they get to be involved with it."

Allen hooked up with producer Don Dixon (R.E.M., Smithereens), who turned the knobs on Rosavelt's The Story of Gasoline, and the pair recorded at Allen's Fairview Park home.

Acetate opens with "Love Not Born," a moody ballad with hoarse vocals that segues into the even grittier "The Man Who Shook the World," a tune inspired by Allen's father.

"What prompted 'The Man Who Shook the World' was hearing a lot of stories about my dad after he died," Allen says. "The song is essentially about people who do great things but are never on TV. With the whole LeBron thing, I was angry about all the celebrity worship that goes on."

Allen initially wrote 40 songs for the album before whittling it down to 11. He says he wanted to explore more "sonic sounds" with tunes such as "Immediate Blue," which includes a sample of Donald Erb's "Five Red Hot Duets" that Dixon tweaked to sound eerie and unnerving. "That song could have been something like a Harvest Moon track," Allen says, referring to Neil Young's 1992 album. "But we were like, 'Let's not make it so pretty.' "

That sentiment rings through the snarling "I Don't Live Here Anymore," which Allen wrote about moving away from Tremont, and the clanging "People Need Targets," a bitter track about betrayal.

"A lot of people who might like [Rosavelt's debut] Carp & Bones might hate Acetate," Allen says. "I understand that. There are some Tom Petty albums that came out that I didn't get. But if Tom Waits kept making The Heart of Saturday Night, I wouldn't be listening to him anymore."

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