Pete Anderson – Canal Street Tavern, Dayton, OH – 11/6/11 I’ve just seen one of the greatest living blues guitarists in a rather unlikely setting – a Midwestern bar on a Sunday night. Pete Anderson may not seem like an obvious candidate for blues virtuoso, since most know him from his almost two-decade stint as Dwight Yoakam’s guitarist. Yet, a closer listen to any number of the great solos he cut during that time, and you realize there’s nary a hint of Nashville in his fretwork. In fact, there’s a whole lot more Freddy King in his playing than Chet Atkins (for proof, dial up Yoakam’s take on Elvis’ “Little Sister”) Since going solo in 2002, he’s concentrated on that first love, the blues.
Anderson’s salt and pepper hair, and white in his beard, suggested that he’d been around long enough to pay his dues, and to have actually seen some of the legendary guitar slingers in action. He was accompanied by longtime buddy Michael Murphy, who alternated between organ, piano and accordion, while a younger drummer and bassist rounded out the quartet. Anderson came out sporting a large, hollow-body guitar. I was close enough to notice that (gasp!) there were no effects pedals whatsoever on the floor – this was no-bullshit rock n’ roll at its finest. The only time he switched guitars was when he played slide – he went to a nice-looking red solid body.
The guitarist ran through two sets, which heavily emphasized his latest offering, Even Things Up – including great renditions of the gritty “Stop Me” and the shuffling “One and Only Fool.” He told a humorous story about entering his tune, “Still in Love,” into a songwriting contest and receiving an “honorable mention,” which he felt would’ve been an even larger reward, had it not been for American Idol queen Kelly Clarkson being one of the judges. He dug back for some blistering covers of Lowell Fulson and Freddie King, but the biggest surprise came when Anderson put down the guitar and picked up the harmonica for a Little Walter gem – he could really blow that thing! He also debuted several brand new songs he promised would be on a new album come spring – “The Fix It Man” featured some of his finest guitar work of the night, while “Red Sunset Blues” was a mellow instrumental.
Anderson seemed genuine when talking to the crowd. In fact, he and his band went and signed CDs in-between sets – not the kind of accessibility you’d expect from a guy who, during Yoakams’ peak, was probably bringing in some serious dough. However, it’s obvious that this time around, Anderson is calling his own shots, and actually doing what he truly loves, and sometimes that can be worth more than any amount of cash.
A final note about the venue – it had been several years since I stepped foot inside Canal Street Tavern; the tables and chairs were new, but everything else was still intact. Which meant the stage was front and center, with not a bad seat in the house, and the acoustics were great. What really grabbed me was the incredible intimacy that Canal Street provides – you just can’t get that anywhere else. –Tony Peters