Most folk, including us here at Blabber’n’Smoke, aren’t too aware of Eric Andersen. He is perhaps THE cult artist of the Greenwich Village years, rubbing shoulders with his much better known contemporaries such as, well, Dylan, and the rest. His songs have been recorded by the likes of The Grateful Dead, Judy Collins, Fairport Convention, Gillian Welch, and Linda Thompson but, now aged 80, he remains pretty much a secret, perhaps in part because he’s never had that one killer song which rises above all others.
This album, a three disc affair on CD, does its best to remedy the situation as a host of famous fans perform his songs. Most of them have been recorded specifically for the album but there’s a clutch of vintage recordings included and it’s one of those which opens the album. From 1970, Bob Dylan sings Thirsty Boots, accompanied by Al Kooper on piano and David Bromberg on guitar with the song sounding as if it were an outtake from New Morning. It’s a swell start to the collection but not really indicative of what is to follow. The 1972 appearance of Linda Rondstadt (with her proto Eagles backing band) singing (I Ain’t Always Been) Faithful and Rick Danko’s live rendition of Blue River are most welcome, the latter particularly poignant, especially when it’s followed by Andersen himself singing Thirsty Boots at a club gig in 1982 which closes the album’s song cycle. Of the new recordings, they are much varied, several of them well removed from Andersen’s folkie perspective, but in the main they pay testament to his song writing skills.
Close The Door Lightly When You Go is perhaps the best known song here (thanks to Iain Matthews) and Richard Barone with Allison Moorer perform it quite deftly while Amy Helms delivers a soulful Blue River, the title song from his most successful album. Thereafter it’s pretty much a pick and mix affair as to what will capture one’s fancy but the doleful folk rock of Goin’ Gone by Richard Shindell stands out as does Foghorn by Larry Campbell & Teresa Williams along with Janis Ian’s powerful rendition of Hills Of Tuscany, a song which has a Dylan like intensity to it. Pick of the mix goes to Wesley Stace’s eight minutes of sparkling and jangled mystery on Time Run Like A Freight Train and Eyes Of The Immigrant by Lucy Kaplansky, a song written many moons ago but still relevant these days.
That leaves another couple of dozen songs we haven’t mentioned (and artists such as Willie Nile, Elliott Murphy, Happy Traum, Dom Flemons and Lenny Kaye) but, rest assured, all are worth exploring. What’s for certain is that this collection shines a welcome light on a mighty fine songwriter who has for too long has remained in the shadows.