.:CD Review: Americana-UK | Pat Anderson “Magnolia Road
Nashville is full of good artists, mediocre artists and “buckle and hat” artists, who are usually not much cop. Anderson is in the former camp.
Originating from Oklahoma, Anderson’s press release states his influences as Steve Earle, T-Bone Burnett, Ryan Adams, Tom Petty and Lynyrd Skynyrd. This is an impressive list, but can he hold his own amongst such illustrious company? Whilst it’s virtually impossible to produce an album that comes anywhere near the heady heights of his influences, Anderson has had a good go. A folksinger at heart, this album encompasses all things Americana. Hell he’s even done a bluegrass down tempo banjo version of Springsteen’s ‘Dancing in the Dark’, which works. Anderson says “They say you should write about what you know. There’s a lot that I don’t know, but I do know what it feels like to laugh, cry, love, sweat, bleed, win, and lose; to be hungry for something better. Those are the things that make us human, good and bad – those are the things I’m trying to get a handle on in these songs.” And that’s a good philosophy to have and “Magnolia Road” covers all he knows. ‘Martinsville’ provides tales of people struggling with the desperate existence of life, ‘She’s The One’ is the melancholic ballad, whereas opener ‘Follow Me Down’ is one of the obligatory rockers. Eleven tracks that take this album out of mediocrity into the aforementioned artists’ territory. Anderson is definitely on his way.
By Phil Edwards: Americana-UK.com
.:CD Review: Pat Anderson | Magnolia Road
I listen to Pat Anderson and am reminded of how really great Nashville could be if they could only shake themselves loose from that formula-driven pap they seem to have latched onto. Give them a hit and they will surely run it into the ground quick enough, trying to squeeze that blood from the proverbial turnip and thus assure themselves of their jobs at least until the next generation of accountants and lawyers step in to squeeze the turnip even harder. I have nothing against the likes of Kenny Chesney and Carrie Underwood and Miranda Lambert and Taylor Swift, but my God, can we make a little room up top? Nashville is overrun with amazingly talented artists who are symbolically kicked to the curb by the corporate “experts” of Modern Country, most of which isn’t country anyway. Singing with an accent and wearing a fancy cowboy hat makes the music country no more than does a banjo and a mandolin make bluegrass.
That said, there is no doubt that some great music is coming out of Nashville, some of it even from major labels. A little of it. Very little, now that I think about it— at least compared to the Indies. The difference? As far as I can tell, the Indie artists have freedom to record and write music for music’s sake. Major label artists seem to crank their songs out of a machine. No soul. Most of it, anyway— as far as I can tell— kinda.
If you want soul— not the genre but the feeling— Pat Anderson gives it to us in spades on his new album Magnolia Road. There is a touch of twang in his music and some crunch as well, but it changes from track to track and even within some tracks. He rocks, he rolls, he kicks ass and he countries it up but all with a touch which is distinctly beyond formula. Which is a long way around saying that he is a musician as well as a writer and he writes like he was born to it.
Anderson caught my ear right off on the lead-off track Follow Me Down with an almost Free sounding intro— guitar and electric piano a la a couple of songs off of the Heartbreaker album— so much so that in that few seconds I prepared myself to hear Paul Rodgers’ voice. While Rodgers did not appear, Anderson did and his voice is as pleasant if not as distinctive, carrying the song through an easy rocking 3:44. I was impressed, as I was by the tracks that followed— the country rocking The Hometown Blues, an easy rocker which would lay back any country or rock crowd; Six Spent Shells, a rocker with a hook (love the solid dueling rhythm guitars with slide guitar on top); the dramatic Martinsville, an ode to the trials of life which to some seem trivial and to others are everything; and Anderson’s amazingly outstanding Americana take on Bruce Springsteen’s Dancing In the Dark, a song I thought I never wanted to hear again until I heard this.
And then there is the personal attachment I have formed toward She’s the One. The first time I heard it I thought I heard something familiar and it produced a mind itch. There were remnants of early Chris Isaak there, and I dearly love Isaak’s first solo album, but it wasn’t him. I listened and listened and racked my brain and almost had it a number of times, and then it hit me. It wasn’t Isaak at all but Audrey Martell, a singer more known for her soul and R&B roots than anything else. Years ago, Martell sent me a copy of her then new album titled Life Line and I was totally knocked out by it, especially a track titled Heaven Is Hell. There is an ethereal beauty to that song which really got under my skin and I spent days playing it between albums I needed to review. I could not get enough and still backtrack to listen when I have the time gets away from me all too often these days, even as the urge builds. She’s the One is a mirror image of Heaven Is Hell (the sound, not the song) and I am amazed at how similar the guitar sound and the chord progressions are and would be even more amazed if Anderson had ever heard of Martell, but who knows? Stranger things have happened. The point is that like Heaven Is Hell, She’s the One is one of those songs I will never be able to forget and will never want to. An instant classic.
Not only that, it has a Will Kimbrough sound to it as well. What? I forgot to mention that Kimbrough played the session? Well, he did and I can’t help but hear his influence on a couple of the songs. Toss She’s the One or Six Spent Shells anywhere on Kimbrough’s standout Wings album and, but for the voice, you wouldn’t notice. Whether Anderson just has a similar gene that kicks in on certain songs or whether Kimbrough really did have an influence is anybody’s guess. Doesn’t matter. What’s good is good.
And Magnolia Road is not only good, it’s damn good. It’s Wings good, at the very least. Anderson is a noteworthy songwriter and if he never gets better, he is already plenty good. Of course, I expect better. One thing that makes these songs special is their depth— their ability to carry the listener away. On the gut level, they kick the crap out of 99% of the major label Nashville fare. Don’t believe it? All it takes is a sample or two. Do it now and maybe in the near future you will be telling everyone that you knew him when (and if you buy the CD, you’ll have physical proof). Just a suggestion, but a good one.
By Frank O. Gutch, Jr.: RockandReprise.net
.:CD Review: Beat-Surrender.com | Pat Anderson “Magnolia Road”
Like to introduce you to a great début album of roots tinged rock and balladry from Nashville based singer-songwriter Pat Anderson – this eleven track album features nine Anderson original compositions, a track by the prolific “trad,” and an excellent reworking of Springsteen’s Dancing in the Dark.
Anderson often performs solo with his trusty acoustic guitar and harmonica for company but on the album he’s got some Grade A support from Nick Buda (drums, percussion), ex-Jayhawk Jen Gunderman (piano, organ, accordion, harmonium) Tim Marks (bass), Rob McNelley (electric guitar) and multi-instrumentalist and Americana gun for hire Will Kimbrough (electric guitar, mandolin, banjo).
The album’s quality shines from beginning to end, kicking things off with a guitar drenched rocker Follow Me Down and ending with the title track Magnolia Road where a more economic sound wraps itself loosely around the words, in the age of downloads the art of track sequencing sometimes gets overlooked to the detriment of a body of songs, this album manages to shift up and down the gears with ease bringing the best out of the collection on show.
By Simon: Beat-Surrender.com
.:CD Review: TheBluegrassSpecial.com | The Road Taken
Oklahoma-born, Virginia-raised singer-songwriter Pat Anderson is off to a strong start with his debut album, Magnolia Road. A roots rocker with a strong affinity for Dylan, Springsteen and Petty, and possessed of the tough-minded country-rock sensibility of Todd Snider as well, Anderson went to all the right places to find the necessary musicians to drive his messages home: the great Will Kimbrough provides searing electric guitar work (and also plays banjo and mandolin) and ex-Jayhawk Jen Gunderman is on various keyboard instruments, with Tim Marks on bass, Rob McNelley on electric guitar, and Nick Buda on drums (Anderson co-produces with Grammy winning engineer Chad Carlson). If there is a bit of Dylan in Petty’s drawl, there is a bit of both in Anderson’s, although his voice, by contrast, is clear and ringing. Of the eleven songs here, only two are covers, and both are telling: a roiling, sludgy, dirge arrangement of the traditional “I Wish I Was a Mole In the Ground,” with its eerie guitar cries and somber keyboard support, dates back at least to Bascom Lunsford’s 1924 Library of Congress recording, and Lunsford insisted it was already prevalent among the locals of western North Carolina when he was growing up. The song’s importance to the early work of Bob Dylan and the Band has been predictably overstated by Greil Marcus, but in Anderson’s case it serves as something like the fundamental starting point for where he’s coming from as a writer, with its main character frustrated at every turn by the callousness of those whose paths he crosses, be they an acquisitive woman or a railroad man who “will kill you when he can/and drink up all your blood like wine,” and inevitably propelling himself towards some unfortunate end, with impunity and without remorse. Anderson’s voice is suitably dead in the story’s telling, heavy, with little emotional inflection–a perfect evocation of a man beyond reach, doomed, and knowing it. The other cover is of Springsteen’s “Dancing In the Dark,” and though Anderson clearly has the band to pull of a rousing take on the Boss’s big hit, he chooses instead to root around in it and find new wells of tenderness otherwise buried in the original’s happy-go-lucky, synth-fueled texture. To do this he transforms it into a soft bluegrass-tinged ballad, heavy on ruminative banjo, with affecting instrumental embroidery via brush drums, acoustic guitar and accordion, then responds vocally with appropriate thoughtfulness in the verses (even adding a little bluesy tinge to his drawl) and soaring in the chorus.
But those are only two songs on album otherwise populated by nine impressive originals. The opening “Follow Me Down” is a forceful country-rock workout that rises from a whisper to a shout and is centered on the tale of a fellow whose relationship is under fire for mysterious reasons (“the talk around town turned mighty strange”) that lead him to beseech his gal for assurances she’s with him, come what may. It’s an occasion for a tough, direct vocal from Anderson, whose appeals are underscored by the fury of Kimbrough’s stinging guitar soloing. In the Petty mode, the stomping, bruising “Let It Rain” describes “a time of trouble, toil and strain” that might well be a comment on American circa 2010, complete with the dour prediction that the current climate, if you will, might be the precursor to “a hundred-odd-year storm,” as Anderson shouts amidst flurries of mandolin, punishing drums, and wailing guitar ahead of his undaunted declaration: “Bring it on!” More directly topical, the slow boiling ballad “Martinsville” wonders what happens to a 53-year-old man when the factory where he’s spent his working life shuts down and no other options obtain save one–“when the night comes calling/he feels he’s falling/down like Blue Ridge rain/faith, not reason, keeps him believin’…,” a sentiment followed by grim, slowly enveloping silence, itself a profound statement. Easy to see how the desperate character of “I Wish I Was a Mole In the Ground” fits right into the brutal world Anderson evokes. And yet, after recounting so many physical and emotional traumas in his stories, Anderson ends on a high note with the beauty of the title tune, “Magnolia Road,” a homecoming story with Appalachian overtones in its rootsy backdrop and the singer’s easygoing, hopeful vocal, though the drums and slide guitar provide a rockin’ energy thrust to the whole enterprise. Anderson may strike some as too consciously Dylanesque, especially in his singing, but he’s not another “new Dylan.” He is, however, another in a long line of American artists with solid groundings in folk, country and traditional rock ‘n’ roll and unafraid to take the measure of their times, even as they plumb their own hearts. In doing so Anderson joins a select group of troubadours who attempt to shed a little more light on, and with it more understanding of, what the heck is going on within us and without us. You can’t have too many Pat Andersons in the world, but this particular Pat Anderson may be on to something, so take heed.
By David McGee: TheBluegrassSpecial.com
.:CD REVIEW: A Fifty Cent Lighter & A Whiskey Buzz | ReviewShine Wednesday–Pat Anderson
Pat Anderson is a songwriter based in Nashville who has just released his debut album Magnolia Road. Anderson’s nine original tracks and two covers are brought to life by an extremely talented collection of players including Rob McNelly on guitars, former Jayhawk Jen Gunderman on keys, and Americana Jack-of-all-Trades Will Kimbrough on everything from guitars to bouzoukis. The result is a solid mix of introspective down beat ballads and melodic up tempo anthems.
On first listen, your ear will likely be drawn to Anderson’s drastic re-imagination of Bruce Springsteen’s “Dancing in the Dark” (I wish I could share it here) as a lazy banjo tune. Spend some time with the rest of the album, however, and you’ll find plenty to like in his original work as well.
By Nelson Worth: A Fifty Cent Lighter & A Whiskey Buzz
.:CD REVIEW: Twangville.com | Pat Anderson – Magnolia Road
To re-arrange a Bruce Springsteen hit for inclusion on your first record requires either courage and talent, or stupidity and narcissism. Fortunately, Pat Anderson exhibits the former on his debut album, Magnolia Road. He turns an anthemic tale of defiance into a story of resignation and anguish. Accompanied by a sparse banjo from virtuoso Will Kimbrough, Dancing In the Dark epitomizes the mindset of someone who’s been beaten down so long it just doesn’t matter anymore. Anderson moans “I ain’t nothing but tired”, and it feels like it sapped every ounce of energy at his disposal.
The entire album is filled with emotional voyeurism gems like that. She’s the One is the realization that what one used to want so badly becomes a path to nowhere, with no way to turn back. I Wish I Was A Mole In the Ground is an interpretation of an old Appalachian tune about how someone works all day in the worst of conditions and comes home to a spouse with no sense of how the world works–”baby, where you been so long.” Indeed. And the title track repeats that lonesome Appalachia sound with the insight of how one is “always driving, never arriving.”
At the depth of the pain is Martinsville, a story of a closing textile mill. It uses the bass line to build a deep sense of foreboding that the occasional piercing of electric guitar does nothing to but just accentuate the desperation. This is a song that would make James McMurtry proud. Anderson also includes a couple of more uptempo rootsy pieces like Too Far Gone and Let It Rain that add some defiance and remind you sometimes the command to “bring it on” comes from where you least expect it.
Overall, Magnolia Road is a brilliant character study, a kind of musical version of a Tim Burton movie. It’s filled with dark characters and bleak landscapes; yet in the end the protagonist isn’t really unhappy. Life has its moments, you move on, and what’s so bad about that anyway.
By Shawn Underwood: Twangville.com
.:CD REVIEW: Underground Nashville | Pat Anderson Takes Us Down “Magnolia Road”
Pat Anderson is a roots-rock/Americana singer-songwriter based in Nashville. Over the past few months, Pat has showcased his music at the world-famous Bluebird Café and at other Nashville venues. (To see Pat performing at the Bluebird, as captured by BBC World News America in July, go to PatAndersonMusic.com.) Although Pat’s prime focus these days is building his local fan base, he’s also busy capturing accolades beyond Nashville’s city limits. Roots Revival Radio in Belgium hailed Pat “a very talented young artist who deserves highlight attention.” And GreenManReview.com said of Pat: “This is a singer who is going to be BIG . . . . You will be hearing a lot more of Pat Anderson.”
After hearing Pat’s new album, Magnolia Road, I couldn’t agree more. This is a young artist of unusual passion and dedication—one following the path of artists like John Hiatt, John Mellencamp, Steve Earle, and Kenny Wayne Shepherd—but forging his own unique footprints on it.
Stand-out tracks on Magnolia Road include “She’s the One” (which Pat performs part of in the BBC World News America video) and the opener “Follow Me Down.” The latter solidly sets the tone for the entire album, by riveting your attention immediately and telling you, “The 11 songs you’re about to hear have nothing to do with plastic; nothing to do with schlock; nothing to do with Music Row soullessness.” When Gram Parsons said “I dream of . . . Cosmic American Music,” here’s what he was talking about.
When I interviewed Pat for Underground Nashville last spring—when he was still recording Magnolia Road—I asked him what his dream for his music is. He replied, in part, “I just want to make music good enough that it affects people in the same way that music I like affects me. There’s something comforting and strengthening in the best music, and it makes the world a little bit more habitable place to me.”
After listening to Magnolia Road, I sense that Pat Anderson’s dream—thanks to his unique talent and vision—is quickly coming true.
By Dave Carew: Underground Nashville