Harley Allen

Harley Allen Biography

In Nashville today, you will find songwriters and artists who have a strong sense of what’s commercial; they are skilled at the craft of putting together hit songs, and they are the names you see in the credits of whatever songs currently occupy the top ten. Then, on the fringes of country music, there are those who create songs that are more personal, songs from the heart that move you but which may or may not ever top a chart. There are very few writers who fit both categories – with songs capable of breaking your heart that also have hit potential – but Harley Allen is definitely one of those few.

Anyone who has followed bluegrass music for more than a few years is familiar with Harley’s bluegrass background and with the legendary Allen name: Harley and his brothers toured and recorded as the Allen Brothers. Harley’s late father, Red Allen, was not only one of the great lead voices in bluegrass, but also sang the low harmony part on some of the finest trios ever recorded with the Osbourne Brothers, including "Once More" and "My Destiny." Red was clearly an influence on Harley’s singing, but also gave him his initial inspiration to write songs at an early age.

"I was about 12 or 13 and I remember noticing that Red wrote a lot of his songs, and I wanted to try it and see what it was like to write a song." By the time Harley was in his late teens, his gift of songwriting was starting to take shape, and he began building what would become a gigantic catalog of songs. He began listening to some of the great songwriters and singers in country music, like Hank Williams, Ira Louvin and Tom T. Hall. He found kindred spirits in these performers; in fact, Billboard magazine places him among them: "Allen wades through demons like a modern day Hank Williams."

The move to Nashville’s Music Row from his home in Dayton, Ohio was a very natural one for Harley, and his songwriting talent earned him an immediate staff writing position at Ten Ten Music Group. His critically acclaimed Mercury release "Another River" was his debut into the country music world. Entertainment Weekly was quick to point out what a successful move his was: "In his transition from bluegrass to country, Harley Allen, the son of ‘grass great’ Red Allen, matches the emotional intensity of the former with the storytelling earthiness of the latter. His plaintive and honest hillbilly delivery goes straight to the heart."

The songs of Harley Allen are well known to country music lovers, with cuts recorded by the likes of Garth Brooks, Linda Ronstadt, Don Williams, Hal Ketchum and Alison Krauss. Alan Jackson has recorded several songs, which brought chart attention to Harley’s songwriting talent, with "Everything I Love" becoming a top-ten title track of his 1996 release, and "Between The Devil and Me" reaching R&R and Billboard charts’ number one position in January 1998. In recognition of these songs, Harley accepted an award from Music Row magazine in 1998 as Nashville’s top emerging songwriter.

Still, Harley Allen fans might argue that none of these great artists can render a Harley Allen song the way he can. The stars themselves apparently agree. Linda Ronstadt reportedly made his song "High Sierra" (also the first single from the first Trio CD) as closely as she could to his demo, as she felt the delivery could not be improved upon. The new millennium is proving to be a smash with recent cuts by Mark Wills, Gary Allen, George Jones and Alan Jackson. Harley has also made some major accomplishments recently as both a songwriter and performer. The incredible success of John Michael Montgomery’s "The Little Girl," which was nominated for three ACM Awards in 2001, made Harley’s talents as a songwriter stand out to the world. This could only be followed up by a surprising and powerful movement into the mainstream as one of The Soggy Bottom Boys on the multi-platinum selling "O’ Brother Where Art Thou" soundtrack. In 2001, his participation in the soundtrack earned him two CMA Awards in the Single of The Year and Album of the Year categories. He also won two GRAMMY'S at this year's presentation. His contributions to the "O'Brother Where Art Thou" soundtrack earned him one each for ALBUM OF THE YEAR and BEST COUNTRY COLLABORATION WITH VOCALS for The Soggy Bottom Boys on "I Am A Man Of Constant Sorrow. He is also nominated for the upcoming ACM Awards in May.

It’s time for the country music world to discover what Nashville’s Music Row elite already know. As the Bluebird Café News announced, "Harley Allen is everything so many hat act wannabes wannabe. He is the real deal."

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