Review by Fred Rudofsky
It wasn’t a big crowd for a Saturday night in Troy, but that was no matter – Pete Anderson and his two bandmates, drummer Jeff Sorenson and keyboardist Michael “Fireball” Murphy – were grinning and making a joyous noise. “My favorite part of being on the road is not knowing what day it is,” exclaimed Anderson, Dwight Yoakam’s former lead guitarist/arranger/producer. After being part of that lucrative gig for two decades, Anderson is a solo artist who has returned to his first love, the blues. Those in attendance at the Ale House will tell you that you should be kicking yourself for staying in.
Opening with “Booker Twine,” an instrumental co-written by Anderson and Murphy, the trio melded a Stax meets Antone’s sound. “110 in the Shade” and “You’ve Got Your Friends” showcased Anderson wry and dry vocal style and perfect tone on his blond Epiphone; the latter song included a shout-out to one of the unsung heroes of the blues, Wayne Bennett. “Honky Tonk Girl,” off the recent Even Things Up (Vizztone/ Little Dog Records) rolled out with an Albert Collins-styled attack, detailing the charms of a woman from Ventura County. “Blue Guitar” cooked, calling to mind equal parts Freddie King and Eddie Angel. “Working Class,” which dates back to his solo debut in 1995, looked at the hard times that never seem to shake free.
Anderson’s rapport with the audience was engaging, but one remark about the state of pop culture was rather pointed (and accurate): “Nashville is the epicenter of the destruction of country music!” It’s no wonder the blues came calling for Anderson to come back home, as the funky “Feels Like Mississippi” and the jumping rhythms of “Talkin’ about My Baby” made clear. A kinetic slide guitar take on “Crystal Blue Persuasion” came out of left field, but it served as a fine prelude to the boisterous “That’s How Trouble Starts.”
The second set was equally impressive in its range. Opening with a rare Little Walter song, “I’m Cutting Out, Baby,” Anderson put aside his guitar for the harmonica. The entire band locked into a heartfelt tribute to Wes Montgomery (“Wes’ Side Blues”) that featured some cool electric piano by Murphy. Anderson’s best vocal performances of the night had to be “One and Only Lonely Fool” and “Still in Love,” the latter a song that got an honorable mention in an independent songwriting contest (“The judges were Tom Waits, John Hiatt and Kelly Clarkson – guess who was the reason why I’d didn’t get first prize?,” Anderson quipped, his eyes rolling).
Songs for an upcoming release also made a strong impression. “The Fix-It Man,” based on the extracurricular love life of Anderson’s uncle from the East side of Detroit, was swinging and and funny, taking several double entendres to the center stage. Seriously awesome note-bending over a Texacali shufflle beat by Sorenson and some poignant B-3 by Murphy made “The Red Sunset Blues” a treat.
Stories made their way into the second set – Anderson offered a hilarious account of hanging for several days with Lowell Fulson (“He had whiskey bottles hidden everywhere in his home!”) – and continued after the rousing closer, “Stop Me.” Anderson hung out to chat with fans after the show, recalling a youth spent seeing the Paul Butterfield Blues Band, Magic Sam, Otis Spann and other blues giants in their prime.
PETE ANDERSON SET LIST
110 in the Shade
You’ve Got Your Friends (I’ve Got Mine)
Honky Tonk Girl
Feels Like Mississippi
Talking about My Baby
Crystal Blue Persuasion
That’s How Trouble Starts
I’m Cutting Out, Baby (Little Walter)
Wes’ Side Blues
One and Only Fool
Still in Love
The Fix-It Man
The Red Sunset Blues
Reconsider Baby (Lowell Fulson)
Even Things Up