Album Review: Various Artists, ‘Tribute to a Songpoet – Songs of Eric Andersen’
Tribute to a Songpoet: Songs of Eric Andersen is a gift of gratitude to the singer and songwriter who had so deeply influenced American folk and roots music.
Many consider Eric Andersen the best poet and songwriter from the 1960s Greenwich Village folk scene. Artists like Bob Dylan, Judy Collins, Fairport Convention, Gillian Welch, and numerous others, covered his songs. His song “Thirsty Boots” has been covered by Collins, the Kingston Trio, John Denver, and Dylan, among others. Dylan’s unreleased take from 1970 appears in this collection that released late last year.
The power of Andersen’s songs lies in their poetic clarity, their graceful storytelling, and their ability to convey a range of human emotions while announcing the shortcomings of our social systems.
Tribute to a Songpoet: Songs of Eric Andersen contains 42 songs on 3 CDs. It includes 35 newly recorded tracks and seven previously released tracks. The digital and streaming versions of the set feature a live version of Andersen performing “Thirsty Boots” at the Mudd Club in New York City in 1982, with harmonica by John Sebastian and bass by Tony Garnier added to the track in 2022.
On Disc One, Lucy Kaplansky delivers a poignant take on “Eyes of the Immigrant,” with ringing guitars. Michele Gazich’s shimmering violin conveys both the hollowness and hope of immigrants toward the so-called promised land of the United States.
Bob Dylan’s subtle, beautiful version of “Thirsty Boots” features Al Kooper on piano and David Bromberg on guitar. Kooper’s piano creates the emotional resonance that lies within the song.
Syd Straw’s rocking version of “You Can’t Relive the Past” is fueled by Marc Ribot’s electrifying guitar work, while Willie Nile’s stomping version of “Rain Falls Down in Amsterdam” captures the horror of the beast of anti-Semitism that is loose in the world.
Propelled by screaming guitars, Eric Bazilian’s Black Sabbath-like take on “Ain’t No Time to Bleed” shakes us with its apocalyptic tone, while Larry Campbell and Teresa Williams deliver a gentle, swirling, soulful version of “Foghorn.” Eric Lee’s jaunty version of “Singin’ Man” captures Andersen’s autobiographical tale of the life of a troubadour, while Mary Chapin Carpenter’s previously released “Violets of Dawn” cascades with quiet beauty.
Disc two opens with Dan Navarro’s take on “Moonchild River Song,” an aching ballad that soars on the strains of producer Steve Addabbo’s B3. Janis Ian’s touching, ringing version of the “Hills of Tuscany” conveys the song’s emotional depths, while Arlen Roth’s take on “Sweet Surprise” unfurls along layers of Roth’s shivering slide guitar.
Denice Franke’s ethereal vocals evoke the depth loneliness on “Baby, I’m Lonesome.” Andersen’s daughter, Sari, along with his first wife, Debbie Green, on orchestral strings, provide a gorgeous version of “Listen to the Rain.” Signè Andersen, another of his daughters, offers a languorous, jazz-lounge version of the Eric Andersen/Rick Danko tune “Driftin’ Away.” Happy Traum and Cindy Cashdollar provide a lilting take on “Mary I’m Comin’ Back Home,” and the disc closes with Amy Helm’s haunting, beautiful version of “Blue River.”
Disc Three kicks off with Linda Ronstadt’s previously released country-rock take on “(I Ain’t Always Been) Faithful,” which rides along Buddy Emmons’ atmospheric steel guitar.
Alice Howe’s spacious, folk-jazz version of “Is It Really Love at All” meanders soulfully, with echoes of Nicolette Larson’s heart-touching vocals. Lenny Kaye evokes a shimmering folk and surf rock vibe on “Miss Lonely Are You Blue.” And Andersen’s wife, Inge, offers an ethereal take on the previously released “Round the Bend.”
One of the highlights of this third set may be Dom Flemons’ choogling, high-octane version of “Song to J.C.B.,” while Simon Keats’s stately piano captures the somber beauty on his previously released version of “Come to My Bedside, My Darling.”
Tribute to a Songpoet: Songs of Eric Andersen honors the work of one of our greatest songwriters and poets. Every version in the collection is a treasure, offering gem-like takes on the insights of Andersen’s songs.
Tribute to a Songpoet: Songs of Eric Andersen is available HERE.
Instagram – @ericandersenofficial
Facebook – @ericandersenofficial
Twitter – @songpoetea