For 22 years, Al Anderson had the dubious distinction of being the relatively normal guy in NRBQ; while the rest of the band were frequently content to wander off in a delightful but inscrutable musical direction no one seemed to full comprehend but themselves, Big Al could be counted on to keep at least one foot firmly planted on solid ground, playing blazing country-accented guitar leads and writing the band's most accessible songs, such as "Riding in My Car" and "It Comes to Me Naturally." So it should come as a shock to no one that Pay Before You Pump, Anderson's first solo album after leaving NRBQ, is short on quirks and long on barroom boogie and hot-rodded twangy guitar; Anderson's strengths were always based in good and greasy roots rock, and here he lets his country accents rise to the surface (and seems to be having a great time doing it). By this time, Anderson was also racking up a good number of credits as a Nashville songwriter for hire, and Pay Before You Pump is also something of a sampler that offers a little bit of everything Big Al likes to write -- punchy rockers ("No Place in History," "That Thang"), rowdy roadhouse escapades ("Bang Bang Bang"), twangy dance numbers ("Get Done"), faux Cajun groovers ("After the Mardi Gras"), and even a self-reflective ballad ("A Change Is Gonna Do Me Good"). If the songs here are generally more polished and professional and less idiosyncratic than his work with NRBQ, they're still lots of fun and boast a lot more heart and soul than your average Music Row hack, while Anderson also leaves himself plenty of room for some extra-crispy chicken pickin'. Pay Before You Pump never quite scales the peaks of oddball wonder of NRBQ's best work, but it's never less than a rockin' good time with great songs and stellar guitar work, and there's not a thing wrong with that.
Pay Before You Pump Review
by Mark Deming