Eric Anders | Tethered To the Ground (Baggage Room)

This, friends, is what that whole singer-songwriter movement is all about: one man with a vision, a unique voice, solid instrumentation, and words that can—and will—open your eyes.

 


This is a big, quiet album. By that, I mean the music is laid back, richly woven, contemplative, and inviting. The vocals are hushed, gentle, whisperstrong. And the lyrics? They’re provided (of course), and they’re the foundation of Eric Anders’ creation, snapshots of the not-so-nice, the inequity, the unhappy, the worse off. The album’s title came from a review of J.M. Coetzee’s novel Elizabeth Costello, quoted on the booklet: “…disabused of the fantasies devised by the mind, [Coetzee’s characters] arrive at a truth that is modest, humble, tethered to the ground.”

Heavy stuff, indeed. But if you can wrap your mind around its desolate concepts without contemplating that straightedge in your medicine cabinet, you’re in for a real treat. This, friends, is what that whole singer-songwriter movement is all about: one man with a vision, a unique voice, solid instrumentation, and words that can—and will—open your eyes.

Without a doubt, the awe-inspiring highlight on Tethered to the Ground—Anders’ third full-length release—is his reworking of the Violent Femmes’ classic, “Blister in the Sun.” It’s got the blessing of Gordon Gano himself, as Anders rewrote some of the lyrics (for example, “We’re high as a kite/I just might/stop and check you out” has become “From high as a kite/now we might/stop and just check out”). But stripped down, low-key, bleak, with Anders’ honeysmooth voice lamenting his loss, it’s perfection in a pair of headphones.

There are 12 additional Anders-penned tracks to complete the offering, including opener “Big World Abide.” With its slow groove and carefully plucked guitars, it conveys the sound of eyes opening for the first time, taking it all in. Anders voice is bedtime-story smooth and rich as he sings a fairytale gone wrong: “From the big world we’ll ever hide/Not abide/Say goodnight.” With its catchy, slow groove, “Earth Rise” has a more wide open, Western feel to it, opening to the expanse of the scenery as music and vocals rise to ask, “Is there anything but this ride?”

“The higher the climbin’/the harder the fall,” murmurs Anders to kick off the anti-Bush “Looking Forward to Your Fall.” Brushes on drums lend a tightly controlled jazz feel to the track, which grows in volume and intensity on the refrain. There’s a nice dip into falsetto on “These People,” while the smooth “So Wrong” keeps politics atop the list of injustices. “Don’t believe it/Nothing there for you/They’ll just keep singing their false patriot songs,” Anders sings, backing his own words before being joined for the chorus by Anna-Lynne Williams (of Trespassers William). On “Truth Be Told,” Anders’ voice seems tired, stretched, thin as he admits, “I’ve hollowed out myself.”

Tethered to the Ground is bedtime music for adults, realists, thinkers. Nah, scratch that; it’s a damn fine album for anyone who expects to be challenged while entertained. Expect the world, I always say.

 


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