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January 2011

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Pete Anderson
Even Things Up
Little Dog Records

Pete Anderson

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 any deficiencies. 

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 album.

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

 

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