John Anderson- Goldmine review   Leave a comment


andersonIt wasn’t until I was 19 that I started to listen, really listen, to country music. Unavoidably, I had ‘heard’ country music before then, even liked the occasional story song (usually of the sentimental variety) like “Teddy Bear” and “Coward of the County,” which wasn’t sentimental in any way. It was only when I was working my first record store job that I started to really hear what country music-circa 1983-offered. Before that, I was all rock ‘n’ roll, new wave, and off-centre 45s…David Dundas, anyone?

I’m not sure where the start was- maybe a record label sampler, maybe by sampling 45s in the store-but the likes of Deborah Allen (“Baby, I Lied”), Shelly West (“Jose Cuervo,”) and George Jones came to my attention. It wasn’t many weeks later that I cracked open a copy of an Emmylou Harris album (Last Date, I think) quickly followed by Rosanne Cash, Carlene Carter, and Rodney Crowell, and I was sliding down the rabbit hole.

I left town for university and continued my journey. My music horizons just kept expanding as I worked in one of Edmonton’s largest record stores in West Edmonton Mall. I listened to just about everything over the next four years, from The Smiths, Los Lobos, and Katrina and the Waves, to The Judds, Laura Vinson, and Dwight Yoakam.

During that initial year of university, I was given a ticket-through the record store-to a country music concert at the Jubilee Auditorium featuring a singer I had never heard of, but whom the label rep suggested I might like. Since I lived just next door in campus housing, it was an easy night out. If I didn’t like it, it was a five minute walk back to Lister.

I don’t know if that night changed my life- every decision we make does that, after all- but it was significant. First up, Billy Cowsill opened the show, and I had never heard of him either. Now a departed, Alberta music legend, Cowsill performed as fine a song as I’ve heard that evening, “Vagabond.” In those days, music wasn’t available at the click of a mouse and neither was information. It was only a few years later that I found the excellent Blue Northern album containing the song, and later still that Cowsill had his next success with The Blue Shadows and eventually becoming the toast of Calgary, but man, did he put on a show in that opening slot. I don’t recall the details, but I remember “Vagabond” and I remember being impressed.

Eventually, the main attraction hit the stage, and I heard John Anderson for the first time. I was stunned. The only similar experience I can recollect now is when I heard The Osborne Brothers live for the first time in 2001. I didn’t know what I was expecting, but it wasn’t this. That voice!

Late 1983, so Anderson was promoting All the People Are Talkin’. The audience knew his songs, obviously, or they wouldn’t have bought the tickets, and folks were singing along with everything, it seemed to me. Before too long, so was I. “Black Sheep.” “I Just Came Home to Count the Memories.” “Swingin’.” “Wild and Blue.” “She Just Started Liking Cheatin’ Songs.”

When he sang “I’m Just An Old Chuck of Coal (But I’m Gonna Be a Diamond Someday)”, it was likely the first time I head a Billy Joe Shaver song, though I didn’t know that then. “1959” became my favourite song for a few weeks.

He had a voice like no one else, of course. I had a real good seat, just a few rows back, and I was spellbound for the full set. What a singer, and I was sure I was seeing the next country legend.

In some ways, I was, although Anderson has never achieved the status of Jones, Haggard, or Jennings. But, dang- can he still sing.

My review of his very strong album Goldmine is up at Country Standard Time. I’m sure he has released weak albums in his career-admittedly, I haven’t heard them all, but I recall being disappointed with Countrified upon release- but for me this one ranks up there with his finest.

Thanks for visiting Fervor Coulee. Donald

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