With mid-'60s gems like Violets of Dawn, Thirsty Boots, and Close the Door Lightly, Eric Andersen became the archetypal, literate romantic before the likes of James Taylor and Jackson Browne had even cut their first records, but at the same time seemed to lack direction from album to album. With his eighth album, Blue River, recorded in Nashville in 1972, he found the perfect setting for his gentle, poetic songs. After nearly seven years of dabbling in folk, folk-rock, pop, and country, Andersen found a smart, sympathetic ear in producer Norbert Putnam. Putnam, whose production here is rarely extraneous, utilizes subtle touches of bass, drums, accordion, and organ along with Andersen's own guitar, piano, and harmonica to frame the material. The record, Andersen's first effort for Columbia, also featured his best collection of tunes to date.
Blue River, with its themes of uncertainty and struggle, is by no means a casual record, although songs such as the bittersweet "Is It Really Love at All" and the title track, featuring Joni Mitchell's ethereal supporting vocal, will draw the listener in with their sheer beauty. Andersen, then in his late twenties, was dealing with questions of love, life, and desire with a maturity matched only by a handful of songwriters at the time. Never overly precious or maudlin, nearly every cut resonates with eloquence and grace. Although continuing to grow as a writer in the years to come, Blue River remains Eric Andersen's masterwork and one of the true classics of the genre.