Even Things Up
Little Dog Records
Pete Anderson has been labeled as the "guru
of twang & blues guitar," best known for his work as
a guitarist and producer for country star Dwight
Yoakam. He may be more widely acclaimed for his work
with roots-rock and Americana artists like Lucinda
Williams, Michelle Shocked, Rosie Flores and others,
but he's also got a long history of playing the
blues dating back to the time he first heard Muddy
Waters in the 1960s.
Even Things Up is one of those recordings
that gets better the more you listen to it.
Unlike many albums in which I start
to lose interest part way through, this one
continued to gather momentum and sounded even better
the second time through. Anderson is a strong,
energetic guitarist and he's got a tight band, led
by keyboardist Michael Murphy that provides tight
solid accompaniment from start to finish. Anderson's vocals are the weakest part of
his arsenal, but the rest of the package more than makes up for
A strong drum beat from Jeff Donovan and the
"in your face" horn section of Lee Thornburg and
David Woodford provide the intro to the opening
number, the uptempo shuffle "Honky Tonk Girl" that
right away lets us know that there's a premier
guitarist on display here. That leads into the first
of many strong instrumental numbers, "Booker Twine,"
in which Anderson and Murphy repeatedly swap solos.
Anderson kicks out some great slide guitar riffs on
the urgent rocker "That's How Trouble Starts," which
adds nice background vocals from Maxine Waters. He
then shows his versatility by adding chromatic
harmonica to the snaky "Even Things Up," one of the
stronger cuts on the disc.
"Wes' Side Blues" is a strong instrumental, mixing
good blues guitar licks with a touch of Latin
rhythms and a little bit of a funky beat --- an
enjoyable five-minute romp! Anderson keeps it in a
blues vein on the next cut, the mid-tempo blues
shuffle "One and Only Lonely Fool."
Another excellent blues instrumental, "Dogbone
Shuffle," comes later in the disc, with the
horn section getting a lot of air time. Anderson
does some of his best guitar work here and sounds a
little like B.B. King, as on the next cut, the slow
blues "Still In Love," which bears some slight
similarity to "The Thrill Is Gone."
Murphy takes the vocal lead on the funky "Room With
a View." Judging from the sound here, this room's
overlooking a bayou or swamp somewhere in Louisiana.
Anderson takes it to the back porch and goes solo on
"Prophet For a Proflt," accompanying himself on
finger-picking guitar and harmonica --- nice!
The album ends with four bonus cuts, the highlight
being guest singer Bekka Bramlett's performance on
the intense "Still In Love." The daughter of Delaney
& Bonnie has recorded more often as a backing
vocalist, so it would be nice for a full blues album
from Ms. Bramlett.
The last three numbers were live performances from
August 2010 with a more stripped down ensemble
backing Anderson --- a nice ending to a strong
Even Things Up is already in contention for
next year's Top Ten list. It's a nice mixture of
Anderson's various styles and influences, but
heavier on the blues. Recommended.
--- Bill Mitchell