John Anderson Digs Deeper Into Classic Style on New Album “Goldmine”

John Anderson Digs Deeper Into Classic Style on New Album “Goldmine”

Originally published in the June 1, 2015 issue of Nash Country Weekly magazine. 

From a physical standpoint, it appears as if John Anderson has hardly changed in the past 30 or so years. His long hair and beard may be a little grayer, and he may have a few more lines around his eyes, but today, seated on a black leather couch in the upstairs studio of Cowboy Jack Clement’s former abode, he’s unmistakable: a burly fireplug of a man, topped with a black cowboy hat and dressed in jeans and a light blue work shirt.

When he opens his mouth and that distinct Florida-born drawl emerges, even someone bereft of sight would know it. 

“I was up here a few years back,” John says, marveling at the surroundings and the history this room undoubtedly holds. “You could tell, if these walls could talk . . .”

Album cover art for John Anderson's "Goldmine", ca. 2015 cr. courtesy Aristo Media FREE

Goldmine — May. 26, 2015

  1. Freedom Isn’t Free   3:26
    John Anderson/James C. Hicks Sr.
  2. Magic Mama   3:43
    Merle Haggard
  3. Back Home   4:01
    John Anderson/Jimmy Stevens/ Jeff Farr
  4. Goldmine   2:59
    John Anderson/Josh Turner
  5. Happily Ever After   3:49
    John Anderson/James C. Hicks Sr.
  6. I Work Alot Better   2:19
    John Anderson/Josh Turner
  7. I Will Cross O’er the River   3:37
    John Anderson
  8. Louisiana Son of a Beast   4:05
    John Anderson/Bill Emerson/ Jody Emerson
  9. Holdin’ On   3:33
    John Anderson/Jimmy Stevens
  10. Song the Mountain Sings   4:30
    John Anderson/Buddy Cannon
  11. On and On and On…   4:36
    John Anderson/Jimmy Fortune
  12. Don’t Forget to Thank the Lord   3:39
    John Anderson/John Rich
  13. You All Are Beautiful   3:26
    John Anderson/James C. Hicks Sr.

The classic style closely associated with John is prevalent on his new album, Goldmine, which he produced with his longtime fiddle player (and Time Jumpers member) Joe Spivey and is releasing on his newly founded Bayou Boys label. John had a hand in writing 12 of the album’s 13 tracks and Merle Haggard wrote its lone outside cut. It’s a collection John made without any outside interference, borne of the knowledge that he figures he knows better than anyone what he sounds like.

“Right now,” he says, rapping his knuckles on the coffee table in front of him, “thank goodness we’re not at a shortage for real good country songs, as far as John Anderson style.”

What he means is that his new material, culled from a prolific writing period over the last few years, suits John’s musical style and that singular, warm and twangy voice behind “Swingin’,” “Straight Tequila Night” and “Seminole Wind” in the ’80s and ’90s. As to what brought on this burst of creativity, John reckons that he just wanted to keep his knives sharp. 

“I just figured if I was gonna keep staying in this business I was gonna need to keep writing good songs and singing them,” explains John of recording the album, his first since 2009’s Bigger Hands. “That begets, well, what are you gonna do with them? Well, you can either pitch them to all the other artists in town, and that’s not a bad idea for some folks; however, my particular songs are pretty much the old-style country.” He adds the quotation-mark gesture to this last bit, as if he’s unsure he wants the term applied to him.

“Therefore, if you were to pitch these songs around town you probably wouldn’t expect many of them to get cut these days by all the folks, say, in the top 25 Billboard slots,” he surmises. “The young country. They call it ‘bro-country.’ Or I guess the CMA’s calling it country music. I’m just wondering which country.”

True to that sentiment, there are no EDM-laced party tracks or hip-hop guest verses on Goldmine. It’s heavy on traditional balladry (“Back Home”), swampy story songs (“Louisiana Son of a Beast”) and cheeky toe-tappers (“I Work a Lot Better”), which John perfected with his rise to stardom in the early 80s. According to John, his adherence to this particular style is not so much about sticking with a formula as it is just knowing what works for him even when popular taste may favor something different.

“There are a lot of people out there wanting to hear the old-style country. I say that just for lack of a better word. I don’t even know if it’s traditional,” he admits. “We used to call traditional country Hank Williams Sr. and Jimmie Rodgers, and the Delmore Brothers used to be traditional country. I don’t know what it is guys like me been doing all this time now.”

A range of specific topics are covered on Goldmine: patriotism (“Freedom Isn’t Free”), domestic contentment (“Happily Ever After”) and hard times (“Holdin’ On”). Josh Turner and John Rich also teamed with John to co-write new tunes. One of the album’s standouts, the bluegrass-tinged “Song the Mountain Sings,” was written with producer Buddy Cannon, the man behind hit records for Kenny Chesney and Jamey Johnson.

CW2215_John_Anderson.indd

 

“When I cut the song I was a bit reluctant to play it for him, being that he’s such a great producer,” quips John, laughing. “Actually, I hadn’t played it for him yet but I think he’s heard it by now and I heard that he liked it alright. So maybe I’ll call him up and we’ll go eat lunch or something, try to write another song.”

If there’s a subtle change to be found in the John Anderson of Goldmine, it’s an increasing awareness of mortality and aging that shows up on the hymnlike “I Will Cross O’er the River.” There’s a sense of peace in the tune, an acceptance of the end of life.

john-anderson-album-the-essential-john-anderson-1998-05-01The Essential John Anderson — May. 1, 1998

  1. Swingin’   2:59
  2. Cold Day In Hell   3:02
  3. Let Go of the Stone   3:16
  4. Steamy Windows   3:30
  5. Seminole Wind   3:57
  6. Straight Tequila Night   2:52
  7. Nashville Tears   3:12
  8. Solid Ground   3:18
  9. Money In the Bank   3:00
  10. I Fell In the Water   2:40
  11. Where I Come From   2:42
  12. Mississippi Moon   4:14
  13. Clear as a Bell   3:21
  14. Long Hard Lesson Learned   3:22
  15. 30,000 Feet   2:59
  16. Let the Guitar Do the Talkin’   3:42

“I guess when a person’s 60, which I am now—and I really feel lucky to be 60 and in this good old world of country music—there are some things, as far as being a songwriter, a few more things to sing about than my truck or even my old tractor,” he explains. 

John says he had the title in his brain forever, but it’s not a song he could have written 20 or even 10 years ago. Pressed as to why, he turns reflective about his own life and family.

“Grandkids help. I’ve got three little grandkids. Like I said, just age, maybe seeing a whole lot of your friends pass on across the river. Coming to realization with truth,” he says, slowly and deliberately. “To my knowledge, every living thing on this earth dies one day. I’m not sure that anything or anybody really wants to die when they’re created anyway. But nevertheless, I know it happens, even to the best of those that don’t want to go. This particular song is just a light, an easier way of saying, ‘I’ll cross over the river and rest, quit fighting.’”

It’s an interesting, poignant statement from a guy who earned a reputation for being a fighter of sorts back in his heyday. To hear John’s version of events, some of his best-loved hits, like “Swingin’” and “Seminole Wind,” might never have been released had he not stood up to his label and insisted they be released.

“It all seems so stupid now, looking back,” he says. “I wish I could see those same guys I sued to have to fight with over it. None of them have jobs anymore!”

That statement is a little tricky to verify one way or the other, but history has certainly held John up as being in the right. In late 2014, he was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame for his many contributions to the musical canon. That songwriting side of him, he says, was the precise reason he got dragged into battles with his label.

“I knew how my stuff needed to go and I really didn’t need somebody telling me,” he says. “Basically, that’s probably the biggest reason for all of that. I had a style and I knew how it went.”

He cites a list of trailblazers and friends who succeeded on their own terms as his inspiration: Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings, Loretta Lynn, Mark Knopfler, Bernie Taupin. “Those people did their thing without regard to who thought what,” he says. “And you know, I’ve been taught by those people or I learned from those people, and that’s what I do.” 

He pauses, adding with a wink, “Probably without much regard.” CW

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