Best known for his genre-shifting early collaborations with Dwight Yoakam, Pete Anderson has spent the last decade focusing on a solo career — and, with Birds Above Guitarland, the blues.
In keeping with his rangy career in folk and country, Anderson takes a circuitous road there, adding in flourishes of twanging rockabilly, surf-rock attitude and some tough swinging jazz along the way. The results on Birds Above Guitarland span the landscape of American music, taking in so many different textures and feels that it seems unfair to wedge the project into any one category.
“Outta’ the Fire” leaps out in the style of a classic jump blues, while “Talkin’ About Lonely” plays like a lonesome Sun side. “Big Money” combines a rockabilly attitude with a rough-hewn R&B-strewn brass counterpoint. “Fix It Man,” with its finger-licking chicken scratch riff, rumbles along in the best urban blues tradition, while “Red Sunset Blues” opens up into cinematic vistas.
Yet, Anderson’s songs — all 11 are originals on this album, due September 17, 2013 from Little Dog Records — convey not a cosmopolitan cool, but a regular-guy understanding of the way this world operates. Birds Above Guitarland may have come from a virtuoso player, but Anderson’s narratives remain down to earth. Birds Above Guitarland concludes with a scalding guest vocal from Bekka Bramlett on “Rock In My Shoe,” bringing this expansively conceived yet determinedly straight forward, classically blue-collar effort to a very satisfying end.