Pete Anderson – Working Class / Stephen Bruton – Right on Time
Both of these artists are outstanding pickers and prolific producers. Pete Anderson not only is Dwight Yoakam’s top twanger and tweaker but has also lent his multiple talents to Blue Rodeo, Michelle Shocked and others. Stephen Bruton has performed with Kris Kristofferson, Bonnie Raitt and Bob Dylan; his production credits include Jimmie Dale Gilmore, Alejandro Escovedo, Storyville, Loose Diamonds and Sue Foley.
Anderson and Bruton are not the first producer/pickers to release a solo offering. The scale upon which I judge such albums is represented at the high mark by Dave Edmunds’ best, or Ry Cooder’s paradigms. At the low end? Let’s just say the traffic on that highway to hell is bumper-to-bumper.
Interestingly, neither artist chose to self-produce. Anderson’s tracks are produced by veteran roots-rocker Dusty Wakeman; Bruton was waxed by Tom Canning.
Both artists are established songwriters, and each chose to spotlight that skill. Eight of Anderson’s 11 are self-penned, to nine of 11 on the Bruton disc. Anderson puts his hand to such diverse covers as “Our Day Will Come”, Dylan’s “She Belongs to Me” and Hendrix’s “Fire”. Bruton does a fine cover of Percy Mayfield’s “Please Send Me Someone to Love”.
The playing on Working Class is outstanding, as expected. Anderson’s singing, while not the highlight of the album, is considerably above the level of, say, fellow picker/producer Chet Atkins. However, this record never finds a solid groove. Representative of the feel of Working Class is the false start the leads into the first song. Anderson slips casually from genre to genre, from the bluesy sound of the title track to the Combustible Edison-esque “Our Day Will Come” to the gritty, acoustic “She Belongs to Me”. The latter, along with the finale, “What About Me”, with its loose tempo and impromptu feel, are the standout tracks.
Bruton also mixes many styles, but with an ease that subordinates those raw influences to enhance the record as a whole. What emerges is a rockin’-bluesy-country-pop record. My favorite track is “Bluebonnet Blue”: Bruton’s voice is perfectly suited to the song, and his guitar break is right on target. If I had one “druther”, it would be for the production to echo the leaner sound I’ve heard in Bruton’s live performances.
Though neither of these albums knocks Dave Edmunds off the top of the scale, neither do they take that crowded highway to hell.