Paul Allen could shred, for a billionaire.
Paul Allen could shred, for an oligarch. Julien Michel/Legacy Recordings

Paul Allen and the Underthinkers, "Six Strings from Hell" (Legacy)

[Today's Inbox Jukebox is deviating from its usual reviewing of new releases for a special memorial edition dedicated to Microsoft co-founder and philanthropist Paul Allen—who died yesterday from complications of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma at age 65.]

In 2013, Paul Allen and the Underthinkers released an album titled Everywhere at Once. It features top-tier rockers such as Chrissie Hynde (Pretenders), Joe Walsh (James Gang, Eagles), Ann and Nancy Wilson (Heart), David Hidalgo (Los Lobos), Ivan Neville (Keith Richards, Dumpstaphunk), and others running through some perfectly adequate blues-rock songs. While no less a personage than Quincy Jones compared Allen's guitar playing to Jimi Hendrix's (oh, Q), I'm not hearing it, frankly. Nevertheless, the billionaire could finesse some impressive riffs and conjure some wrenching tones. The album answers the question, "Can an oligarch play the blues?" in the affirmative, shockingly. (As a bonus, the album's proceeds have gone to fund educational programs at the EMP Museum [now MoPOP], which Allen founded.)

"Six Strings from Hell" is the toughest cut on Everywhere at Once, with Walsh singing in his trademark rugged-wiseguy guise while Mr. Allen strafes the air with some of his most abrasive guitar shredding, tipping a plectrum toward ZZ Top's Billy Gibbons. The song's a lumbering, macrohard stomp that soars and crescendos in all the right places, and if you heard it in a dive bar (how ironic), you'd thrust your beer skyward and feel puffed up with bravado. It's something you could imagine hearing at Upstream Music Fest + Summit.