Eric Andersen,
You Can't Relive the Past
(Appleseed Recordings, 2000)

Eric Andersen's You Can't Relive the Past is just over an hour of music that will take you from the flashing night streets of New York City to the mosquito whine of the Mississippi Delta. With thirty years of performing and making music under his belt, Andersen traces a timeline from the past into the present; as the title and the liner notes so eloquently explain, the past can't be relived. However, Andersen drifts back and forth between the two on the drift of memory and music, paying tribute along the way.

The first track, "Eyes of the Immigrant," captures the power of the CD's purpose, with its classical, beautiful guitar and poignant lyrics. Appleseed Recordings is "dedicated to sowing the seeds of social justice through music and exploring the roots and branches of folk music"; this purpose becomes evident as Andersen segues into a raw, thrumming powerhouse version of Lou Reed's "You Can't Relive the Past." Andersen's collaboration with Reed on these songs marks just the first of many musical landscapes covered on this CD. The rest of the tracks alternate between Andersen's traditional folk sensibilities and the blues-bound anthems of the South.

"Meadowlark," with its complex rhythms and a combination Eastern/Celtic aura, is just one of four songs written and recorded in 1986 with Townes Van Zandt. "The Road" adds the heart of the country to this well-rounded collection. "Every Once in a Pale Blue Moon" captures the driving rhythms of Southern rock, while "The Blue March (the Iris)," with its waltz rhythms, pays homage to the blues influence of New Orleans.

This influence becomes even more obvious on the tracks recorded in Mississippi in memory of Robert Palmer, who was instrumental in shaping Andersen's early days as a singer-songwriter in Greenwich Village. My favorite is "Stand Me Up Easy," with its bluesy, bouncy rhythms and Andersen's gravelly voice that slips into your ears like whiskey burns down your throat. Andersen definitely gets to expand his musical opportunities on these tracks, playing with such greats as Sam Carr on drums, James "Super Chikan" Johnson on electric guitar, and Kenny Brown on slide and rhythm guitars.

Another favorite on the CD is "Magdelena," a haunting love song, with beautiful textures provided by Erik Friedlander on cello and Robert Aaron on clarinet and flute. The list of talented supporters doesn't end there, however; Lucy Kaplansky adds her sweet voice to the background harmonies and Artie Traum provides his expressive guitar work.

So while the title track may be true, Eric Andersen proves that the past can carry into the future with you and surprise you at any time, lifting up memories and gifts. You Can't Relive the Past moves Andersen another step forward in creating his own musical history. To find out more about this folk legacy, visit Andersen's website.

[ by Audrey M. Clark ]

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