Eric Andersen: Blue River

Rating: 6.3/10
Rated as
: Album
Album Status:
for Genre-Enthusiasts
Released: 1972
Specific Genre: Singer-Songwriter, Contemporary Folk
Main Genre: Folk, Singer-Songwriter
Undertones
: Folk Rock, Country Rock, Soft Rock
Label: Columbia

If love were made of clouds, I almost wish that it would rain

A sweet and elusive singer-songwriter album, a bit on the cheesy side of acoustic folk, with a female ghost choir and glockenspiel kicking in around one minute into the record. With his fragile voice and rather feeble performance, Andersen falls into the vicinity of James Taylor. He belongs to the introspective, romantic sort of folk troubadours: gentle tunes, gentle performance, gentle lyrics, the production is spare but clever. There’s never just a guitar, there’s always a harmonium, or a glockenspiel, or flute-like keyboards, or gospel-ish piano clusters… and occasionally a fuller band-sound bordering on the soft-rock of the early 1970s Southern California-scene (though Andersen wasn’t part of that scene).

The compositions here, while today totally familiarized by the likes of Taylor or Carole King, must have been regarded as pretty ‚serious’ folk music in their day. Today, they are tame at worst and well-written somberness at best. Andersen isn’t afraid to tackle a surprising variety of styles here (why is it surprising? The production is so homogeneous that you don’t notice any variety the first few spins). He does standard balladry, Cohen-inspired depression („Sheila“, one of the better numbers) and even hints at country rock with the bittersweet, jaunty „More Often Than Not“ and, as a bonus track, the Hank Williams-classic „Why Don’t You Love Me“.

As a performer, Andersen lacks the intriguing bittersweet subtlety of Nick Drake or the abyssal baritone-dirge of Leonard Cohen. „More Often Than Not“ is a standout in both ways: it is a straight jaunty country song as opposed to the usual slow-tempo ballads here and one of the most immediately memorable numbers. Although the lyrics imply a sozzled roadrunner telling his story to an equally sozzled crowd, Andersen sticks to his usual contained singing style – the contrast this creates with what would be obvious crowd chant-along lines as „And here’s to all the ladies / That I’m not with tonight!“ or „And here’s to all the bottles / That I’ve drunk in my time!“ has its own charm. It’s just a sobering-up as opposed to a drunk version of that song. Of course, this song is so far from Andersen’s usual romantic staple poetry and ballad compositions, it goes unsaid this is the only song here not from his feather (as I said, on the CD there’s the Williams-cover as a bonus – it seems Andersen had a soft spot for upfront honkytonk country when not writing pained songs to Jesus, as on the ultra-cheesy „Round the Bend“).

Anyhow, this is a decent album if you’re into über-gentle singersongwriter balladeering from the early 1970s. It’s just good enough not to be very boring. This is a must I guess if you’re the kind of person that avidly listens to Carole King, James Taylor and the likes. For me, the record is mostly about „Sheila“ (Andersen’s only moment of true pain here) and the funny „More Often Than Not“. Of the qualities I personally like in Andersen, there’s just other guys and gals in those fields that are quite a bit better.