After a couple of solo records, Portland singer-songwriter Kasey Anderson dialed back the twang, enlisted a trio of the Northwest’s best sidemen, and decided he wanted to rock on his latest record Heart of a Dog.
There’s only one problem: Kasey Anderson’s apparently not much of a rocker.
Anderson’s rock and roll aspirations are at least present at the start with “The Wrong Light,” which calls to mind the original Seattle rock icon (The Voodoo Chile, of course) with a crackling overdriven guitar riff that could go for days. The style suits Anderson, who makes good use of his Jakob Dylan-esque voice, twisting sinister-sounding tales with nearly spoken lyrics on “Wrong Light” and later on blues romp “Kasey Anderson’s Dream.”
Unfortunately these songs are the exception, not the rule, on Heart of a Dog. The album almost completely screeches to a halt with the back-to-back gut punch of lackluster balladry that is “Exit Ghost” and “Your Side of Town,” which fail to put together any memorable melodies for nearly nine straight minutes.
For the album Anderson enlists a backing band known as The Honkies — guitarist Andrew McKeag (Presidents of the USA), bassist Eric Corson (Long Winters), and drummer Mike Musburger (Posies, Fastbacks) — and mostly creates the kind of songs mid-tempo modern rock stations love to play. It’s not bad, not really interesting, but sounds perfectly fine inside your two-year-old Jetta. There are good times to be had, however, and it sounds like they were aplenty in the studio while tracking Stones-y cuts like “Sirens and Thunder” and “Mercy” (anything that sounds like the Stones is at least fun to play). A few more tries at this same style fall flat, though, as “My Baby’s A Wrecking Ball” just sounds like bad John Mellencamp and album closer “Save If For Later” is like something The Wallflowers left on the cutting room floor.
At the very least, Heart of a Dog proves that Anderson has a future in mid-tempo rock if he wants it, but he needs to kick the ballads, refine his vocal melodies and employ more riffage like “The Wrong Light” and less boring country-based rock chord progressions.
* This review has been modified since its original publishing which had incorrectly identified the record label and incorrectly spelled Mike Musburger’s name.