John Anderson Starter Kit

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April 9, 2009

john-andersonAmong the greatest new traditionalists of the eighties, John Anderson is one of the best. That he managed to resurrect his career during the nineties boom, while most of his peers from a decade earlier were shown the door, is a testament to his talent and the timeless quality of his music.

His distinctive voice made him one of the last great stylists of country music, a singer you could identify after hearing him sing the first line. I recommend delving deep into his catalog, and here are the ten tracks that you should start with.

“She Just Started Liking Cheatin’ Songs” from the 1980 album John Anderson

One of Anderson’s breakthrough songs finds him concerned over his lover’s new fondness for cheating songs. “I’m not sure if it’s the cheatin’ she likes, or just the melody,” he worries.

“I’m Just an Old Chunk of Coal (But I’m Gonna Be a Diamond Someday” from the 1981 album John Anderson 2

A classic song celebrating untapped potential, courtesy of songwriting legend Billy Joe Shaver.

“I Just Came Home to Count the Memories” from the 1981 album I Just Came Home to Count the Memories

This haunting ballad of a broken home evokes memories of George Jones classics like “The Grand Tour,” complete with melancholy strings.

“Swingin’” from the 1982 album Wild & Blue

For a long time, this was the zenith of his career, resulting in a gold album and two CMA trophies, including Single of the Year.

“Straight Tequila Night” from the 1992 album Seminole Wind

The first single from Anderson’s massive comeback album barely dented the charts, but when “Straight Tequila Night” was sent to radio, it shot to #1.

“When it Comes to You” from the 1992 album Seminole Wind

I’ve never heard the music complement Anderson’s voice so effectively.

“Seminole Wind” from the 1992 album Seminole Wind

An environmental plea that is as poignant and timely today as it was upon release.

“I Wish I Could Have Been There” from the 1993 album Solid Ground

Country music gets its own “Cat’s in the Cradle”, as a working father misses the milestones of his children’s lives, then finds that they’re not around for him in his twilight years.

“Bend it Until it Breaks” from the 1994 album Country ‘Til I Die

His last big hit, and one of his best breakup numbers.

“Long Hard Lesson Learned” from the 1996 album Paradise

Anderson’s final album for BNA featured one of his finest moments, a powerful message of love and tolerance.


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  1. Dan MillikenNo Gravatar says:

    Nothing irks me more than when labels take forever to come up with comprehensive compilations of important label-jumping artists, and that’s unfortunately what’s happened with Anderson. Very solid list – I may have to just cherry-pick tracks like this to get my fill.

  2. Matt BNo Gravatar says:

    Dan, While it’s not the original recordings, Anderson re-recorded all of his songs for the 2 disc Anthology collection while at Audium/Koch earlier this decade. As far as re-recorded ‘hits’ collections go, this one’s pretty damn good (similar to the Tracy Lawrence “Then and Now” collection).

    The timing of this post is a good one for John’s just finished up a new album with James Stroud. The album will be called “Bigger Hands” and it’s going to be released on the same label that released Aaron Tippin’s fine new album “In Overdrive:” Country Crossing/Stroudavarious.

  3. Dan MillikenNo Gravatar says:

    I personally can’t stand re-recordings, so I don’t count Anthology. The only re-recorded collection I’ve heard that I haven’t hated is John Denver’s Greatest Hits, but that was done on purpose and with direction, since Denver felt he had become a better singer (and was probably right). I haven’t heard Bruce Robison’s His Greatest yet, but it sounds like he went for a similar approach, so I might like it, although it means I’ll have three different versions of some songs.

  4. Leeann WardNo Gravatar says:

    I’m not big on rerecordings either, but I thoroughly enjoy the Robison album.

    As for Anderson, I can’t praise him enough. I love, love him. Even when I first got into country music, he was one of my favorites. To wittle his songs to ten would be impossible for me. Great start.

    For now, I’ll add:
    “Let Go of the Stone

  5. AnnieNo Gravatar says:

    My favorite John Anderson song is “Wild And Blue” – I love that fiddle!

  6. Matt BNo Gravatar says:

    I think that’s the biggest key with re-recordings, the vocalist being better. I love the Robison collection for that reason (although I love Bruce’s originals of the songs he did on there too). I like the Tracy Lawrence “Now And Then” one because he WAS better vocally than when younger but Warner Brothers got his “Birmingham” song put onto their Very Best Of Tracy Lawrence set in 2007 so even the Now and Then collection is a bit redundant.

    I wonder of WB/Rhino or Legacy won’t go about making a nice career-spanning “Very Best Of” or “Essential” collection sooner rather than later.

  7. HubbaNo Gravatar says:

    Very nice list Kevin, I agree.
    He had a song come out in ’98 or so that I really liked. Can’t remember the name of it, and I don’t think it got too far. It was right before or after “Somebody Slap Me,” which I also loved.

  8. Paul DennisNo Gravatar says:

    I would consider “Wild and Blue” and “Your Lyin’ Blue Eyes” as essential as well.

    Anderson remade “Swingin’” several times but lost the loose groove that made the original so successful. I have the Audium CD and it is not bad, as remakes go, but still the originals are better.

  9. [...] Among the new traditionalists of the ’80s, Country Universe’s Kevin J. Coyne says John Anderson is one of the best. If you haven’t explored any of Anderson’s music, Coyne put together a list of ten songs you should start with. [...]

  10. MichaelNo Gravatar says:

    Great list. You covered all of my favorites in your list and there is surprisingly nothing I would add.

  11. PaulaWNo Gravatar says:

    I have the Anderson anthology and I love it. I also go the new Aaron Tippin album and it is great. Looking forward to John’s new album.

    James Stroud has got a lot of good things in the works.

  12. JoeBNo Gravatar says:

    Wild & Blue is classic, and Let Go Of the Stone.

  13. Stephen H.No Gravatar says:

    As someone who got into country in the early 1990s while very young, my personal starter kit just contains one song: “Seminole Wind.” The haunting melody and instrumentation, heartfelt singing, and meaningful lyrics made me forever a John Anderson fan.

  14. Kevin J. CoyneNo Gravatar says:

    If I was going to add one more song, it would be “Let Go of the Stone.” It’s beautiful.

  15. J.R. JourneyNo Gravatar says:

    I would have included ‘Black Sheep’ and for a great album cut, ‘Red Georgia Clay’ from Eye of a Hurricane is superb.

    Solid list though – and it’s great to see John Anderson mentioned at all.

  16. russell knouse jrNo Gravatar says:

    Sure is good to see so many people taking an interest in John Anderson.He’s got a style that some people just don’t get.But for those of us who do there is none better.I would have to add 1959 from his debut album to the list.

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