John Anderson

Countrified

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John Anderson probably knew he was leaving Warner Bros. when he cut Countrified, which is not to say he was coasting when he recorded it. He produced the set with Jim Ed Norman and cut several tunes with his touring band. It may be the most country album he made for Warner since his first albums, but it was too little, too late. "Countrified" is a string of country songwriting clich├ęs, somewhat redeemed by Anderson's over the top vocals, "Wife's Little Pleasures" is better, a song about a drunk making amends for his sins by paying a punishing alimony to his ex, with a darkly humorous lyric, and "Honky Tonk Crowd" is an unusually understated drinking song with some boozy fiddle fills. The album's best and most atypical number is "Yellow Creek," a ghost story about a cowboy haunted by the spirits of the Native Americans who once lived on his land. Anderson's subdued delivery makes the song especially poignant. Other winners include "Do You Have a Garter Belt," a salacious, bluesy rocker with some stinging lead guitar and Anderson blowing some credible blues harp; Merle Haggard's "The Fightin' Side of Me" played in that lazy, stomping Waylon Jennings beat and featuring an Anderson vocal that owes much to Haggard's phrasing; a down-and-dirty R&B version of the Bo Diddley/Willie Dixon classic "You Can't Judge a Book by the Cover" with some slashing ice-and-fire guitar work; and a sanctified take on Thomas A. Dorsey's "Peace in the Valley," a fine tune to end his last Warner album on a graceful note.

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