Kasey Anderson, Heart of a Dog

Posted on October 26, 2011 by

Artist: Kasey Anderson and the Honkies
Album: Heart of a Dog
Released: February 15, 2011
Label: Red River Records 2011006

Kasey Anderson put out four smart country records before Heart of a Dog. Living a good portion of that time In Bellingham, Washington, Anderson received national attention for his art, drawing comparisons to Steve Earle. It was great praise and it no mistake that he had a similar sound, since his albums were produced by Eric Ambel, a touring member of Steve Earle’s band, the Dukes. But Anderson did not want to be pigeon holed into the alt-country genre, so he put together the band, The Honkies, and made a rock record. (Kind of like Steve Earle’s Copperhead Road.) It’s not uncharted territory for Anderson, the new numbers lean more toward “5th Avenue Queen” from Dead Roses and “Wake Me Up” from Reckoning. It’s just that it’s a whole album of it.

Heart of a Dog opens with, “The Wrong Light;” a song built on a fuzzed-out guitar riff, part Neil Young, part Black Sabbath, and a lot of nasty. Dog then slides into “Mercy” which sounds like it could’ve been part of the Stones Sticky Fingers sessions. Nine songs later, it closes with a cover of the English Beat’s “Save It For Later.” Anderson’s making a point that there’s more in his arsenal. It’s also parallels his departure from Bellingham and a return home to Portland, Oregon, following theme of rebirth.

Although there are some good songs and a great one – that being “Mercy” – Anderson’s too late to arrive. You want to be the artist that is getting compared to, for example, the Raspberries sounded like Paul McCartney (when McCartney had a good day) or any rock band with the Rickenbacher jangle sounded like the Byrds. And Kasey Anderson still sounds like Steve Earle. But, that can be transcended, Tom Petty drew a lot of Byrds comparisons but he is now a rock and roll benchmark.

There are enough hints that Anderson can take the next step. Lyrically, his songs are interesting, a bit wordy at times, but the imagery is good. He’s not as vague as the lyrics of “Save It For Later” nor is he as surreal as Dylan. But his clever “Kasey Anderson’s Dream” is definitely a nod to Bob. The title itself is a hint the structure is very much like “Highway 61 Revisited.” The rhythm section sounds like it was found in a junkyard and provides a rickety foundation for the imagery. It works. It’s good. The influence is there but it isn’t so apparent and that’s the step toward transcending the comparisons.

“Revisionist History Blues” is an apocalyptic talking blues number that has you believing in Anderson’s rock and roll. This works better than the ballads, “My Blues, My Love” and “For Anyone.” These would work better in his alt-country setting. But there’s no reason why Anderson can’t make an album that rocks and twangs. That may just be his niche.

Leave a Reply