My Kind of Country

Country music from a fan's point of view since 2008

Tag Archives: Fred Carter Jr.

Album Review: John Anderson – ‘Bigger Hands’

bigger handsAfter an unsuccessful attempt at another comeback in 2007 with the John Rich-produced Easy Money, John Anderson’s latest album Bigger Hands was released last month on the small label Country Crossing. It reunites him with co-producer James Stroud, who produced his early 90s records, and the result is mostly fairly understated, and is generally more sympathetic to John’s voice and style than Easy Money. John is in great voice, and wrote all the material with a variety of co-writers.

The most immediately familiar song here is John’s version of ‘Shuttin’ Detroit Down’, which he co-wrote with John Rich, who of course had a hit single with the song earlier this year. I always liked the song itself, and thought it a laudable response to current economic issues, but I was distinctly underwhelmed by Rich’s disconnected vocal. John Anderson always commits 100% to his material, and has a history of recording this type of subject matter, going all the way back to ‘Havin’ Hard Times’ on his debut album almost 30 years ago. It should come as no surprise that I vastly prefer his take on the song to that of his co-writer; John Anderson’s stronger voice and more intense approach give the lyric a massive added punch. I really believe him when he sings here about being “fightin’ mad” about the situation. It seems a shame that John Rich’s release of the song as a single has prevented Anderson from doing so.

Instead, the label is pushing the more frivolous ‘Cold Coffee And Hot Beer’, written with longtime collaborator Lionel A Delmore. Since Warner Brothers couldn’t get John back on the radio a couple of years ago, his new indie label may not have much hope, no matter how good the material, which is, in the words of this song, “a cryin’ shame, like cold coffee and hot beer”. It is a highly entertaining song whose narrator is fabulously hopeless at all aspects of life as he laments the loss of his wife; not only can he not make coffee or put his beer in the refrigerator, he can’t manage washing up the cups, and it seems that she brought in the paycheck too. No wonder she left.

The familiar theme of honky tonking is represented by the cheerful, if rather generic, ode to ‘Bar Room Country’, as John paints the picture of a “jumpin’ honky tonk on the county line“, the sort of place where “every night’s like Saturday night“. Much better (and a track which would have been a big hit if recorded at John’s commercial peak) is the witty chugging opening track, ‘How Can I Be So Thirsty’, written with fellow-veteran Billy Joe Walker and the younger songwriter/artist Jerrod Niemann. Here John utters a ironic complaint about a well-deserved hangover – “How can I be so thirsty, after all I drank last night?” he asks plaintively, after listing all the reasons why.

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Album Review: John Anderson – ‘Blue Skies Again’

Blue Skies AgainAfter the monster hit that was ‘Swinging’ the only way was down for John Anderson. He continued to incorporate pop and rock influences in his music for few years after All The People Are Talking, with diminishing returns both commercially and artistically. He was still hitting the top 10 sporadically, but in 1987 the time came to move on from Warner Brothers and try a new start, with a new label (MCA), new producer (Jimmy Bowen), and new sound (back to country, albeit less hardcore than his earliest work). The appropriately titled Blue Skies Again was the first of John’s comeback attempts.

The leadoff single, ‘When Your Yellow Brick Road Turns Blue’, failed to crack the top 40, although it is an excellent song with a beautiful melody with nods to ‘Over The Rainbow’, and has one of John’s finest vocal performances, as he portrays a husband offering unconditional love to a restless wife in the process of leaving him to pursue her dreams:
“You say that somewhere over the rainbow there’s a star that youve been wishing on
Well, is the grass really all that greener than here where you belong?
I hope that you find what you’re after and all of your dreams come true
But remember that I’ll always be here when your yellow brick road turns blue.”

John’s most successful single on MCA was ‘Somewhere Between Ragged And Right’, a duet with Waylon Jennings which Jennings wrote with Roger Murrah. The only song on the album to venture away from relationship themes, it sets out a series of interesting similes but offers no real resolution:
“We’re all polyester poets and pickers of a kind
With far too many questions for the answers in our minds…
Like a busload of taxi drivers learning how to fly
We’re on automatic pilot driftin’ through our lives.”
Sadly, the pairing of two of the most iconic and distinctive voices in country music doesn’t really work, as the two make no attempt to blend and seem to be fighting for precedence on the lines where they sing together.

The third and last single from the album was ‘It’s Hard To Keep This Ship Together’, which John wrote with Fred Carter Jr. It was the closest track to the more rock-influenced sound of recent years, but failed to make an impact at radio; not altogether surprising, as not only had the tide of commercial country music moved in the direction of the neotraditionalists, but the song itself is not very interesting. The metaphor of stormy weather addressed to a rocky relationship works better in the post-breakup title track, a mournful ballad written by Michael P Heeney with some sweet fiddle from Joe Spivey.

‘There’s Nothing Left For Me To Take For Granted’, written by John with Lionel A Delmore is another gloomy look at the aftermath of a broken relationship, and is a very good song as the protagonist finds all the couple’s old friends want nothing to do with him, and “the hardest part for me is stayin’ sober., and livin’ inthe past with broken dreams”. On a more positive note, John wrote a cheerful mid-tempo love song with his wife Jamie, ‘Just For You’. It is not particularly memorable, but pleasant filler.

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Album Review: John Anderson – ‘All The People Are Talkin’

johnanderson-all the people are talkinAfter his wildly successful Wild and Blue album, propelled by the smash crossover hit, ‘Swingin’, John Anderson’s next album featured much of the same formula as the previous release.  So while there are still plenty of stone-country moments here, we also find John branching out into the rock and roll sound that he embraced for the rest of the 1980s.  All The People Are Talkin’ was released in September 1983 and reached the #9 spot on the albums chart as the lead single was climbing the singles charts. ‘Black Sheep’ would reach the top in December of that year and the follow-up single would also reach the top 10 in early 1984.

Danny Darst and Robert Altman penned the growling rocker, ‘Black Sheep’.  This clever tune tells the tale of a truck driver who, in his family’s eyes doesn’t measure up to his professional siblings.  Though his parents don’t seem to understand, he’s just as happy in his own element as they are in their ivory tower lifestyle: ‘Yeah I drive me a big ol’ semi truck I’m makin’ payments on a two room shack/My wife she waits on tables and at night she rubs my back’. It’s a very relatable song.  The message of living your life on your own terms, even though it doesn’t meet your family’s expectations, is very universal.

Another grooving track was released to radio with ‘Let Somebody Else Drive’, and crested at #10.  Merle Kilgore and Mack Vickery wrote the song, which was adopted by Mothers Against Drunk Driving as an anthem for the group.  Though the song’s message is anti-drunk-driving, it’s a rocking tune in zydeco fashion complete with horns and strings.

The album opens with the title track, an uptempo ditty written by Fred Carter Jr.  In this tune, driven by some snazzy sax, the narrator’s friends are all telling him the things his lady has been up to, but he chooses not to believe them.  Love is blind and blindness is bliss.  Twin fiddles kick off ‘Blue Lights and Bubbles’, one of my favorite songs on the album.  A twist on the old ‘get out to a smoky, neon-lit bar to get over you’ tune, you can almost hear the beer caps popping off as it plays.

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Album Review: John Anderson – ‘I Just Came Home To Count The Memories’

ijustcamehomeJohn Anderson’s third outing for Warner Brothers found him sharing production duties with a new co-producer, Frank Jones, and showcasing a slightly more polished sound. This is most apparent on songs such as the title track and “When Lady Is Cloudin’ Your Vision”, which feature a string section, something that hadn’t been typical of Anderson’s recordings up to that time.

The title track had previously been recorded by Bobby Wright in 1975 and had been a moderate hit for Cal Smith in 1977. Anderson’s 1981 version, in addition to the string section, finds him toning down the twang just a bit, possibly as a concession to country radio’s tastes at the time. It seems to have paid off; “I Just Came Home To Count The Memories” reached #7 on the Billboard country singles chart, helping Anderson rebound nicely after his previous single “I Love You A Thousand Ways” had stalled at #54. His inconsistent performance at radio continued, however, when the next single, “I Danced With The San Antone Rose”, failed to chart. Despite a poor reception at radio, it is a beautiful song, penned by Anderson and Lionel A. Delmore, and it is one of my favorites on the album.
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Album Review: John Anderson – ‘John Anderson 2’

1981_john_anderson_2countryAs the title suggests, John Anderson 2, was the singer’s second studio album for Warner Brothers, released in 1981. Produced by Norro Wilson, it picked up where the previous year’s debut album left off, calling on some of Nashville’s premier songwriters and musicians, and stood in stark contrast to the typical Urban Cowboy fare of the day. Among the legendary musicians contributing to the album were Harold Bradley (Owen’s brother), Jerry Reed, and Fred Carter, Jr. (Deana’s father) on guitar, Pete Drake on steel guitar, and Hargus “Pig” Robbins on piano.

The opening track, “I’m Just An Old Chunk of Coal (But I’m Gonna Be A Diamond Someday)”, an instant classic composed by Billy Joe Shaver, was the first single released from the album. It brought Anderson to the Top 5 for the first time, peaking at #4.

It was followed up by “Chicken Truck”, composed by Anderson, Ervan James Parker, and Monroe Fields. This is a light-hearted tune about a motorist who is stuck on the highway behind a truck transporting chickens, which it is unable to pass. It’s my least favorite song on the entire album; the lyrics are foolish, and it has some rock overtones, which make it seem out of place with the rest of the album. It is also an indication of things that were to come in the relatively near future; it’s somewhat similar to 1983’s “Swingin'”, the biggest — and worst, from an artistic standpoint — hit of Anderson’s career. The production on “Chicken Truck” isn’t as obnoxious as the tune it foreshadows, but it wears thin after repeated listenings. Radio programmers apparently agreed; even though it reached #8, this song had a short shelf-life. I don’t ever remember hearing it on the radio, which suggests that it didn’t have any staying power as a recurrent once its chart run was finished.

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