John Anderson

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Years Review

by Stephen Thomas Erlewine

The years started piling up for John Anderson. He spent the better part of four decades on the road, with his glory days of the early '80s laying the groundwork for years of touring and the occasional comeback, and he seemed on track to stay on this course until a serious health scare in the late 2010s. Anderson kept the details of his health quiet, but during his recovery something serendipitous happened. Dan Auerbach -- the lead Black Key who had also become a Nashville impresario with his Easy Eye Sound studio and label -- reached out to Anderson as a fan, but he soon became a collaborator, co-writing the ten songs that comprise Years with the hardcore country singer and producing the album as well. Allusions to survival are scattered throughout Years but it's hard to call it a confessional album; if Anderson has a difficult time disclosing the details of his health in public, he's certainly not going to do it on a record. Such open-ended sentiments are ideal for songs, however, since they help turn the specific into the universal, and that's a trick that Anderson pulls off with Years. He sounds reflective, grateful to still be here singing songs, and wise enough to let plenty of light into his ruminations. Much of that sweetness is due to Auerbach's decision to pitch the production of Years somewhere between the gently rolling progressive country of the dawn of the '70s and the smooth barroom country that's Anderson's specialty. This means Years is a bit more ornate than most Anderson records, yet the layers of guitars and keyboards give the vocalist a rich, sympathetic bed to sing with nuance and grace. His performance, combined with the elegant sweep of Auerbach's production and the emotive songs, turn Years into a minor latter-day masterpiece from the country singer.

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