Reality Bites: Kasey Anderson and Chip Robinson at the Golden West CafĂ©, April 27
Because it’s on such a small label, Kasey Andersonâ€™s Nowhere Nights hasnâ€™t received much attention, but itâ€™s one of the yearâ€™s best Americana albums, a coming-of-age farewell to slackerdom delivered with just the right balance of liberated release and lingering regret. On Tuesday, Anderson played much of the disc at the Golden West CafĂ© beneath the baleful gaze of the mounted bison head. With his beguiling sandpaper voice and his guitar chords that never seemed to resolve, the skinny singer-songwriter from Portland, Ore., was able to sustain his lengthy songs until he had explored every corner of that farewell.
Wearing a sloping tweed cap and a red-and-black flannel shirt, Anderson sat in the bay window with an acoustic guitar on his right thigh. â€śI woke up this morning and 15 years were gone,” he sang on â€śBellingham Blues.â€ť â€śI kept walking down these streets like I was searching for somebody I knew Iâ€™d never meet.” The song refers to Bellingham, Wash., where the singer spent way too many â€śNowhere Nights.” In Baltimore he defined that title as â€śwhatever you can sink into and whatever lies you tell yourself while youâ€™re sinking.”
He evoked the seduction of those nights in songs such as â€śAll Lit Upâ€ť and â€śSooner/Laterâ€ť but he also nailed the necessity of leaving them behind on his longest, best song, â€śReal Gone.” He hit a rock-n-roll riff on his hollow box and let it hang there as he sang each item in his long catalog of lessons learned the hardest way. Finally he concluded: â€śAll this leaving better be worth the cost, because it doesnâ€™t take long; the world keeps spinning and fate keeps rolling along, and you know everybody’s got somebody gonna miss them after theyâ€™re gone.”
Chip Robinson was the leader of North Carolina’s Backsliders, a 1990s experiment in what might have happened if Gram Parsons had actually joined the Rolling Stones. Robinson is now a solo artist who shares a producer (Eric â€śRoscoeâ€ť Ambel), a label (Red River Records), and a Houston-to-Albany tour with Anderson. At the Golden West Robinson proved he still has a knack for those Keith Richards riffs, even when he’s sitting in a chair with an acoustic guitar. But Robinson spent just as much time on the brooding ballads such as â€śThe Storyâ€ť and â€śWishinâ€™ on the Carsâ€ť from his new album Mylow. Baltimoreâ€™s Peter Schmader opened the show with a set of likable Americana covers and a new rockabilly arrangement of his signature song, â€śWallpaper Cowboy.”
Itâ€™s good that our town now has a venue willing to book indie-label Americana acts. But why would anyone start such a show at 10:30 p.m. on a Tuesday night? This will never be some hipster/slacker city where mornings donâ€™t matter. This is still a working town, which is precisely why we need Americanaâ€™s dose of realism.