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Pete Anderson – Birds Above Guitarland | Album Review

Pete Anderson – Birds Above Guitarland.
Little Dog Records – LDCD201331.
www.peteanderson.com
12 songs – 48 minutes.

California-based Pete Anderson is recognized throughout the music industry as one of the true visionaries of the guitar, and he gets to display it full-force in this richly produced collection of originals. Although his name may be unfamiliar to many blues lovers, Anderson is a multi-Grammy winner who, for eight years, was the musical partner of country music legend Dwight Yoakam, both as a musician, songwriter and producer.

A former autoworker and Detroit native who fell in love with the blues after hearing B.B. King and catching King and Muddy Waters live at the first Ann Arbor Blues Festival. After forming blues bands in Motown, he moved to Los Angeles as a young adult to fulfill his dream of a career in the music industry.

Known for his exceptional tone on the six-string, Anderson has been a standard-bearer for the American roots movement since its inception. He’s played an instrumental part in the careers of Lucinda Williams, Rosie Flores, Michelle Shocked, Jim Lauderdale and others. And as a bandleader, he’s appeared on The Tonight Show, Saturday Night Live and David Letterman. He also is the man who organized the Guitar Center music stores’ King Of The Blues Guitar competition, and Reverend Guitars issues four models of axes bearing his name.

Anderson plays guitar, bass, baritone guitar and provides vocals and percussion on this CD, with most of the other instrumentation provided by Michael Murphy, who adds keyboards, strings and backing vocals. They’re assisted by Lee Thornberg and Ron Dzibula on horns, Herman Matthews, James Cruce, Jeff Sorenson, Jeff Donovan and Jesper Kristensen on drums, Jack Maeby and Dona Oxford on keyboards, Steve Nelson on upright bass and Dennis Gurwell on accordion. Bekka Bramlett contributes lead vocals on the disc’s bonus track, an alternate version of “Rock In My Shoe.”

A guitar flourish kicks off “Outta’ The Fire,” a swinging straight-ahead blues tribute to a red-hot love affair in which Anderson states: “You know it’s true/I’d rather sweat with you/Than be alone and cool.” Next up is the funky “36 Hour Day,” another song about a woman. “Pickin’ your peaches is a full-time occupation,” Anderson insists. “It doesn’t matter if the sun don’t shine/When I’m with you, girl/I lose all sense of time.” Tasty throughout, his guitar chops are on displays in brief solos.

The mood changes dramatically for “Talkin’ ‘Bout Lonely,” a country-tinged slow blues about a house “that holds one when it used to hold three.” Anderson breaks into a fast shuffle as keyboards come to the fore for “Talkin’ My Baby Down,” another love song. In this one, he doesn’t want anyone saying anything bad about his woman – and if the person does, the singer better not be around to hear.

A Latin beat and a couple of tasty, technically difficult guitar solos highlight “For You,” a warning to an ex-love that the singer won’t let her hurt him again. It precedes “Big Money,” a syncopated modern blues. “Empty Everything,” another song of romantic abandonment, leads into the jazzy “Fix It Man,” which sings the prowess of abilities at home repair rather than an affair of the heart. The tempo slows for “I Got Mine,” an uptown blues in which Anderson stretches out on the fret board, before the disc concludes with two versions of  “Rock In My Shoe” sandwiched around the instrumental “Red Sunset Blues.”

If you’re looking for Yoakam-flavored country music, look elsewhere. This solid collection of new material from a master musician and tunesmith swings from beginning to end. A good listen no matter what your taste.
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