Nov./Dec. 2004

Eric Andersen
November 19, 2004 • Hugh's Room • Toronto

Eric Andersen
“If I should leave you

Try to remember the good times

Warm days of sunshine

And just a little bit of rain

And just a little bit of rain”

Fred Neil

Last night Eric Andersen performed looking back in his rear-view mirror over forty years of singing and songwriting that include Dylan and the Dead, Joni Mitchell, Tim Hardin, Tom Paxton, The Beat Poets, Peter Paul and Mary.

Endowed with the classic Ted Danson / Charlton Heston kind of durable good looks, Andersen told stories and sang in a hushed, textured voice redolent with tones that suggested even more than the words were saying. Better than 200 folks followed him for nearly two hours, as he updated the protest songs of Phil Ochs, Buffy Sainte-Marie and Peter Lafarge in a style accented by the accusatory drawl of Bob Dylan.

He sang Fred Neil’s great song of love and loss. He sang songs of the street and the road of troubadours; he told stories of the days when there were more songwriters than there are “Starbucks in Toronto, or churches in Montreal.” But there was more than nostalgia here, or even preservation of a musical heritage.

What that ‘more’ was came clear as Eric put away his guitar and sat down at the keyboard. The music that flowed from him was rich in the gospel tones of Ray Charles, the heartbreak of Jerry Garcia’s vocals, the struggle of Tom Waits. The ‘more’ behind the messages from the Sixties is spirituality. It survives as the value that underlies the protests, the vividness and adventurousness of those long-gone-and-not-to-be-relived days. Spirituality is what Eric Andersen is preserving by his performances, and by his Great American Song Series recordings. Volume 1, The Street was Always There will be the subject of a separate report.

The local artist who opened for Eric was Greg Hobbs. A soft-voiced singer with a new handmade guitar he can really play behind songs he writes. Hobbs has a sardonic sense of humour: witness his “Song of Happy Divorce,” in which he admits ‘ It’s all my fault,’ but concludes ‘ now I can listen to country music.’ His rhymes can be sharp and funny too, such as ‘Risen from my pew / I’m still in love with you,’ or ‘The organ played and your sister prayed.’ Hobbs, who has three Albums out and has played in New York, San Francisco and Nashville, reminds us of the truth of the saying, “Everyone is local somewhere.”

Report and Photographs by Stanley Fefferman
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