Anderson, Lonesome Strangers try to be the big dogs
Johnny D's, Somerville, Mass., June 28, 1997
By Jeffrey B. Remz
SOMERVILLE, MA - When the name Pete Anderson is tossed around, Dwight Yoakam comes immediately to mind because Anderson is his producer and guitarist.
And the expectation probably would be a lot of straight ahead, honky tonk country coming out of the guitar and voice of Anderson as he breezed into town as part of a tour organized by Little Dog Records, the label he started.
But no such chance in a show at Johnny D's Saturday night where Anderson backed by three other members of Yoakam's regular band, delved heavily into the blues.
This was the final date of a three-month tour promoting the fledgling Los Angeles-based record label, but neither Anderson nor opening act, The Lonesome Strangers, was running out of gas at the finish line.
Anderson showed he was no mere dilettante, a super guitarist working on some side project. He proved quite adept at this genre on which he was raised.
This was clear from the opening "Workin' Class" where he laid down a heavy blues groove, sharper othan on CD.
Anderson demonstrated his guitar skills again and again. He played fluidly and sharply without overkill. Among the highlights was "Ain't That Peculiar." Anderson said he grew up in Detroit listening to the songs. "Probably the way we play it has destroyed your memory of the song," Anderson said, jokingly. "So, I hope you'll forgive us." No problem as their funky approach to the song with good backing vocals hit the mark. The stretched out song was the best of the 75-minute set.
He was not a Johnny one note either in song selection as several songs ventured towards the jazz rock field ("Dogs in Heaven") and a swampy rock vibe ("Better Way"). And there were a few - very few - country licks tossed into the mix.
Anderson let loose on guitar in introducing an acid rock edge to the proceedings as well. Lo and behold, Anderson even played Jimi Hendrix' "Fire." The tremolo sound ("Where the Crows Go') also clicked.
Perhaps the weakest part of the music was Anderson's singing, which has limited range and expression. Call it adequate.
Capably backing up Anderson were drummer Jimmy Christie, keyboardist Sip Edwards and bassist Taras Prodaniuk. All were outside their usual elements as well, but that didn't seem to matter.
As for The Lonesome Strangers, they played country, with a heavy nod towards roots rock. The quartet hadn't been in town for about nine years and recently released the fine "Land of Opportunity," their first disc in about as many years.
Lead singers Jeff Rymes, who handles most of the leads, and Randy Weeks both are capable with Weeks's higher-pitched vocals more expressive. Harmonies were the key ingredient to the Strangers's sound, and when they do, The Lonesome Strangers very quickly recall the kings of harmony, the Everly Brothers.
This was true and again on such songs as "Tobacco Road" and "Fine Way to Treat Me," where Weeks took leads on the pop sounding song. There was such expressiveness when the two would combine.
Based on today's musical marketplace, neither musician may be topping the charts, but at least based on quality, Little Dog could be the big dog.