Review: The Mystery of the Downtown Mystic

Downtown Mystic/21st Century Rock ’n Roll/Orchard/Sony Music 
3.5 out of Five Stars

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Robert Allen, who operates under the nom de plume of Downtown Mystic, seems to have quite a backstory, one that’s shared in detail on his new album 21st Century Rock ’n Roll. So too, the talent that contributes to the 11-song set attests to his special stature. It features two key members of Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band—drummer Max Weinberg and bassist Garry Tallent—as well as drummer Steve Holley and bassist Paul Page, two longtime veterans of Ian Hunter’s Rant Band. 

Allen himself claims credits that include his contributions to early efforts by Jim Croce, John Prine, and Bonnie Raitt, but it’s the music he’s making now that makes the most emphatic impression. Allen/Downtown Mystic is a sturdy rocker, and every one of these tracks shares the sound of classic rock and roll filtered through both muscle and melody. It’s a sturdy sound that remains intact over the course of the entire album, with songs such as “Lost and Found,” “Modern Ways,” Hard Enough,” and “Way To Know” among the immediate standouts. The exuberance never subsides and given his exemplary backing band and the engineering efforts of his late, longtime colleague Ben Elliott, the music bristles with an energy and electricity that rarely subsides.

Given the quality and consistency Allen/Downtown Mystic shares here, the bigger mystery is why he isn’t better known. Obviously, he has the respect and admiration of some prestigious musicians, but one also has to wonder why an artist of such seasoned stature, one with what appears to be a hallowed history, has managed to remain a secret to the populace as a whole. Hopefully, 21st Century Rock ’n Roll can change all that and elevate him to the prominence he’s due. Given the album’s quality and consistency, he deserves all that and more.

Courtesy Missing Piece Group

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