Thursday, November 21, 2013

Pete Anderson - Keeping It Alive At The Torch Club In Sacramento

Pete Anderson is something of a renaissance man - equally at home spitting out a lexicon of guitar licks in about any style, blowing some smokey, reverb drenched harmonica, or regaling an audience with tales of troubles in love, the plight of the middle class, and the death of country music at the hands of Nashville. Like the Johnny Appleseed of American music, Pete throws his musical seeds from a big white vehicle rolling down the roads of this majestic country, and the faithful are eating it up and appreciative.

It wasn't a large crowd on this rare rainy evening in downtown Sacramento, but those in attendance knew why they were there. The Torch Club is a Sacramento mainstay and Anderson has made a habit of stopping in as he either heads north, or south down the West coast. This show was more like a gathering of old friends in a garage, or basement than the big productions Pete played in years past as guitarist and musical director for Dwight Yoakum, but the seasoned vet brought it, and brought it hard all night long.

Reverend PA-1 Pete Anderson Signature Model

If you counted the cool licks in Pete Anderson's toolbox you'd be up all night, and you'd need a calculator - everything from sumptuous multi-string bends to chromatic walks that visit Memphis, New Orleans, Chicago, down to Texas, and yes, even Nashville. The man is like an encyclopedia of American guitar styles, and he delivers them with a workingman's sense of no-bullshit, and nuthin' fancy. The tones coming from Pete's hands and his self designed Reverend Guitars (a PA-1 Signature Model, and an Eastsider T tele-type were the weapons of choice last night), and a super sweet and ancient Silvertone 1472 amp were absolutely perfect - of course, it's all in the fingers and hands and Pete's mostly bare knuckled approach gets it right with every strum, swipe, and pull.

The songs were mostly from his last few solo records (Even Things Up, and Birds Above Guitarland - which is what happens when you let your ten year old daughter title your album, according to Pete) with a nugget or two from earlier works and a blues staple here and there. Anderson is still the guy who spent twenty years trying to save Nashville from itself, and while he may not have saved The Music City's musical soul, he did walk away with more knowledge than you can lasso in one evening in a night club. If you took an alien by the hand, took him to a Pete Anderson show, and said, 'This is American guitar music,' your visitor would have a pretty good idea of what was up.

Maybe as important as what Pete plays is what he says. He told a wonderful story about the title song of his first solo album, Working Man - how he came to become a guitar player after seeing the lost phalanges on the hands of his prospective instructors at the tool & die shop that was to be a step up from his folk's jobs as automakers, and how his once on-point declaration of a decaying middle class later became outdated, only to be reborn in this new American century. Then he told of the time on the endless road when a tornado was chasing his stock-in-trade Econoline van down a highway - Pete saw a pickup truck, a refrigerator, and a big old tree being casually tossed about by the twister, and thought to himself, 'If I could just get that tornado to follow me up this road to Nashville, I might be able to finally fix country music.' It turns out he couldn't - the storm turned off the highway to devour a trailer park, but Pete? He's still on that road trying to make things right.

I saw a great lesson in not just American music last night - I also saw a great lesson in what it is to be an American. Pete Anderson might not shop at Nudie's, but he sure does wear it all very well. If you get a chance to see Pete Anderson somewhere out on the endless road don't miss it - it's the best bargain you're going to find in any barroom on any given night. Thanks, Pete!

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