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Album Review

CARL ANDERSON
Wolftown

You might think a little odd but there is hardly a day that goes by that I don't thank the musical gods for Charlottesville, Virginia. While it may not be your center of the music universe, it is one of mine. I don't have enough fingers and toes to point out the artists from that burg (or from a vicinity close to that burg) who have taken me on magic carpet tangents from the mainstream, among them Paul Curreri, Devon Sproule, Keith Morris & The Crooked Numbers, Danny Schmidt and Jim Waive & The Young Divorcees. That's just the short list off the top of my head. That head spins at how many musicians of note have emanated from C-ville, as they call it.

In fact, it was through one of those artists, Carleigh Nesbit, that I got my first taste of Carl Anderson who sang with Carleigh on three of the tracks from her excellent Flower to the Bee album. There was something in the blending of the two voices which caught my ear, a return to the mountains in modern city form or something, and I found myself listening over and over and feeling a bit more refreshed each time. There was something about those voices--- no autotune or deep echo chambers or any of the tricks studios are so ready to provide in this day and age--- that intrigued me.

So I wrote what I thought was a glowing review (because the album warranted it) and waited. I thought I was waiting for a new Carleigh Nesbit album but that has yet to happen (I assume that life got in the way) and until recently was afraid I would hear nothing of Anderson either. Stuart Gunter took care of that, though. Stuart is another Charlottesvillain (a villain of the first order, I might add) who took advantage of my willingness to listen to anything C-ville and forced the issue. And he didn't even play on the album.

Anyway, after a short series of misfires and ships passing in the night, Wolftown made its way to Oregon and here I am, sitting at the keyboard hoping that my words can do justice to it but knowing that they can't and wondering what I can do to help spread the word. I suppose I could cross the country like Don Quixote, tilting at windmills and trying to get people to listen because it should only take a listen, maybe two, but I'm sure my quest would end like that of the hapless Quixote. I want to force radio, Internet and otherwise, to take up the cause but that is a longshot at best and who knows what impact it would have anyway, in this day and age. What I really want to do is win the lottery and put together a show made up purely of Charlottesvillains and tour the country so others can hear what I hear and if I ever do win the lottery, that is exactly what I will do, cross my heart. And you can bet that Carl Anderson will be on that bill. Full band, if he wants. I like his music that much.

It is heartfelt, his music. It is soft and introspective and heartfelt and grips at the gut. He presents his songs like loving parents present their children, proudly and somewhat tentatively, knowing that others will not fully appreciate them--- not in the same way, at least. He doesn't care what others think, of course, except that he does and maybe even cares very deeply but you will never hear him say it. How do I know? I hear it in his music. I listen to the lyrics and read between the lines. The songs warrant it. They demand it.

I once said to another excellent songwriter and musician, one Brian Cullman, that it had to be better to be appreciated fully by one person than given a cursory listen by many. While Brian didn't accept my tenet (and he should know because he, among so many others, has been given all too many cursory listens amongst all too few truly appreciative ones), I believe he understood what I meant. I hear his music, if only through my limited experience. I hear Anderson's, as well.

There is twang to a few of Anderson's tracks, but it isn't country. It is rock, but it doesn't really rock. I hear traces of Jackson Browne and Jeff Finlin and A.J. Roach and Van Morrison and so many others, but only traces and you have to understand that those are filtered through my listening experiences and not through yours which might conjure up a whole different list of names. In fact, I only throw those names in because if I didn't, you might pass on music that if you gave a chance might well transport you where good music sometimes does--- that place down deep you seldom visit but wish you could a little more often.

Part of that, but not all, can be chalked up to production and musicianship. Obviously a lot of care was put into the making of this album, the voices breathtakingly recorded, the arrangements perfect for the moods, the music dominant over personalities. It isn't that easy to do, my friends, and you have to love it when it is done right. Here, they have done it right.

I just finished what must be my 20th or so listen to Wolftown and am struck by something I first realized back in the early seventies, listening to the first Glass Harp album. That sometimes, less is more. Phil Keaggy, Glass Harp's guitarist, when playing solos, would play just enough to complement the song. The result was that every time I listened, I wanted to hear more. There was never enough. I feel the same about Anderson on this album. Even the five-minute Hold Me, a beautiful romantic ballad of exceptional depth, is not long enough to quench the thirst. So I have ended up listening more than I might have otherwise, which in this case is turning out to be a good thing. I guess if I wanted to put it in comic terms, Wolftown is the Chinese food of albums. Listen, and half an hour later you end up wanting more.

Frank O. Gutch Jr.


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