October 16th marks the release ofEdward David Anderson’s finest solo effort to date, Lower Alabama: The Loxley Sessions, calling on the journeyman prowess of Anthony Crawford (Willie Sugarcapps, Neil Young, Steve Winwood) for this record in not just production but also sonically, credited with playing at least a dozen instruments on the album. From the reminiscent laid back country of “Silverhill”, dark banjo laden soul of “Hidin’ At The Hollow”, and the cool jangle pop of album opener “Firefly” are just a few of the crowning jewels.
The ghastly come sultry backing vocals of Crawford’s wife Savana Lee and guitar man extraordinaire, Will Kimbrough’s offerings are an audible treat to boot. “Sadness” is one of the best songs I’ve heard all year. A quaint acoustic guitar strum set to Crawford’s playful fiddle meanderings, an old timey group chorus accentuating Andersons cure all for the blues – “You gonna wake with the sun, babe, you know that sun be shining bright”. Amen, EDA. That’s my mantra from now on.
I had the pleasure of catching up with Edward. We shoot the poop on his roots flag flying high on this record, working with Anthony Crawford, the chances of a Backyard Tire Fire reunion, and what the future holds for him musically. Lower Alabama: The Loxley Sessionsis Anderson in his finest form, his songwriting should live here for a while. A definite turn to form from his last record, you can’t help but love a guy that follows his heart in whatever direction it carries him, it’s like looking in a mirror. A simply infectious album, chock full of memorable melodies and messages, a genuine keeper.
SZ: You’ve turned the rootsier side up on this effort for sure, was this a product of working with Anthony Crawford or did you feel you’re songwriting and overall approach thereof moving in that direction before enlisting him?
EDA: I think I could sort of feel it moving in that direction long before we started the sessions but it became fully realized while working on this project. After years of fronting a band and playing a Les Paul nightly, my live show is primarily acoustic now and features a good bit of banjo picking and foot stomping. I've always loved old country music and bluegrass and was brought up on blues and rock and roll. So it feels natural and comfortable.
I had a handful of tunes that I thought might work well with Anthony and we had talked about getting together to lay some stuff down out in the woods at his Admiral Bean Studio. That was the plan. So I loaded up the car with instruments, grabbed a 6-pack of PBR and drove out there on a beautiful winter afternoon. It's deep in the middle of the woods in Loxley, Alabama. The last 2 miles are down a red dirt road that's been carved out of tall pine trees. I pulled up to his house and studio and he was there to greet me with some sort of cocktail in hand. We exchanged pleasantries, he showed me the studio (which consists of one larger main building with the control room and then a smaller building which was more of an isolation booth), I set up and off we went!
He was in the larger room at the controls and I was over in the isolation room so we hear each other through headphones only. And that's how we worked for the next few hours. I would play him a song. We would work out a tempo. And then I'd do a take or two and we'd move on. After the first take of the first tune there was a long pause and I was sort of waiting for him to say something. Finally he comes on over the headphones and says "ok Ed, I'm gonna need you to pack up your shit and get the fuck off my property," and we had a good laugh. So he put me at ease, we had a couple of drinks, and it was a very relaxed session and I think that comes through in the record.
I left the songs with him and went and played shows and maybe a month later I drove back out there and heard what he had done while I was away. He said he was nervous playing the stuff for me the first time. Keep in mind, I never went out there looking to make a record, I went out there to get to know Anthony better and to learn something. No other expectations. He was clearly excited about what the songs were turning in to and I was blown away by what I heard. He knocked it out of the ballpark!
So long story short, to answer your original question, it was a combination of both. I could feel the music moving in a rootsier direction AND it was a product of working with Anthony Crawford.
SZ: I remember reading somewhere that you met Crawford while wintering in Alabama. Can you explain?
EDA: My wife and I are about to spend our 3rd consecutive winter based down in Lower Alabama in an RV, these days about a mile from the Gulf of Mexico. I wasn't aware Crawford was down there, but ran in to him one night during our first winter when he was playing bass with the great Grayson Capps. We talked for a few minutes and he told me about the studio and that's really when I first thought of taking some tunes out there. I had seen him playing with Neil Young several years before at the Chicago Theatre and sort of couldn't believe that he lived minutes from our RV park at the time. So we exchanged a few messages and maybe a year later I ended up out there and it turns out we made a beautiful record together!
His playing is fantastic on this album. He's a musical man. And his wife Savana Lee's vocals bring the whole thing to another level. Not to mention the guitar playing of Will Kimbrough. Are you kidding? Kimbrough just happened to be hanging around out there one day and plugged in and played not having heard the material? Unreal. So this whole thing really sort of came together organically and has this laid back, Lower Alabama feel to it.
SZ: How do you compare the one-man band stuff you’ve been akin to as of late to this record, it’s packed with a plethora of instruments and sounds and not to mention top quality musicianship, that’s kind of a 180 of sorts?
EDA: I've always felt that if a song is strong, it should be able to stand on its own, regardless of it's played with a band or solo with an acoustic guitar. And I feel like these songs are strong and enjoy playing them on my own. That said, Crawford and I played a duo show this past summer in Orange Beach and have a handful more to come this fall in the midwest and back down in the southeast. He switches between fiddle, pedal steel, bass, guitar, etc. And sings stellar harmonies. We had a blast!
SZ: Any chance of a Backyard Tire Fire reunion to any capacity, I’ve always loved those songs and that band, thank you for that by the way?
EDA: Hey thank YOU! Yep, lots of good songs and memories there, but probably not, at this point. I'm working hard to get this solo thing happening and am digging where I'm at right now. But I would never say never...stranger things have happened.
SZ: I respect your transgressions and balls, for lack of a better term, to span gulfs of so-called genres and such, something we’re all about here at ‘ssktda’. Where do you go from here music wise?
EDA: Well thanks. I've always been all over the place with the writing. It keeps it fresh, and I love different kinds of music. This probably isn't the smartest business approach, but it is what it is. That said, I do feel like Lower Alabama: The Loxley Sessions is the most defined sounding recording I've made. The songs combined with Crawford's musicality came out to be something very special I think.
So I'll probably drive back down that red dirt road again this winter with a new batch of tunes and pick up where we left off. Why not? If it ain't broke…
It definitely ain’t broke. Grab a copy October 16th, out on The Royal Potato Family’s stamp.
(+words by scott zuppardo+)
*Originally published at No Depression 11/11/15*