Cross That River

****

This head-turning concept album about a 19th-century slave who becomes a cowboy grabs you from the opening line (Mama said a white man be comin' in the morning / Gonna drag Big Daddy away) and never lets go. Allan is best known as a jazz singer, but his warm voice fits naturally into the Western settings here. More importantly, he's written a fascinating set of songs dissecting a little-discussed aspect of Old West life, spiced up with a riveting story involving murder, rape and all sorts of other intriguing twists and turns. Cross That River demands your attention.

— Chris Neal

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