The day we left South Bend for Zach & Bekah's wedding in Houston was the release date, finally, for the new Keith Anderson record, C'mon! It's one that I'd been waiting for since last summer. Several preliminary announcements, as to when it would be in stores, came and went along the way, but still no record. Hmmm. As far as I can tell, there must have been some falling out with a record label and a shifting of gears, or who knows what happened, but in any case I was left waiting a long time. That heightened my sense of anticipation, and probably raised my expectations, too, since anything you wait that long for had better be worth it, right?
It seemed appropriate that the record should finally be released as we headed south to Texas. The first time I heard anything of it was while Zach and I were in Houston for Lynea's wedding on 07/07/07. Then, while I was in Texas again this past January, listening to satellite radio in the rental car I was driving betwixt and between Houston and Dallas, I heard two more Keith Anderson songs from his forthcoming record. So, c'mon, already! His previous record was a good one, I thought, and the new songs sounded promising, so I was ready to hear it.
Well, now that I've had it for a little more than a month, I'm satisfied that it was worth the wait. It didn't blow me away right out of the box, though I liked it alright even the first time. Since then, I've probably played it through at least several dozen times, and I haven't grown tired of it. In fact, I've liked it better and better with time. My children seem to like it, too, as they are often singing along with it (and me) as we are riding about town in the car.
There's variety in the songs; they're not all over the map, but sufficiently diverse to maintain interest. I guess I didn't realize, even with Keith Anderson's previous record, what a solid songwriter he is. He co-wrote all but one of the songs on C'mon! It says something that he wrote one of them with John Rich (of Big and Rich) and another with Bobby Pinson, who's been one of my favorite country songwriters for a while now. The song Keith Anderson wrote with John Rich is already familiar to pretty much anyone who would care: "Lost in This Moment," which hit the big time with Big and Rich's most recent record (from the summer of 2007). According to the liner notes, the two of them wrote that song after John had left Lonestar but before he teamed up with Big Kenny. Both he and Keith figured the song would get snatched up right away, and they reckoned it would be a hit for whoever recorded it. Six years later, it was still awaiting any attention, so John and Keith decided that each of them would go ahead with it on their own records. The success that Big and Rich had with "Lost in This Moment," immediately upon its release, goes to show that the songwriters knew what they were thinking with this one. Keith's performance on C'mon! is his own, and he does the song justice.
The song Keith Anderson wrote with Bobby Pinson, "Closest I've Ever Been," is the last song on the new record. It's got that haunting, classic Bobby Pinson sound to it, with all the glorious shades of a misspent youth, love gone bad, repentance, and faith in Jesus. I know that sounds cliche' (and, fair enough, it probably is), but Keith pulls it off with authenticity.
There are lots of other high points on the record. It opens with the title track, and that one's a barn stomper in the vein of Keith's previous efforts. "Break My Heart" is clever and sarcastic, offering a new twist on the break-up song. "Somebody Needs a Hug" is a bit silly, I suppose, but it's one of my favorites. Is it possible for something to be sweet and innocent, and hokey and edgy, all at the same time? If so, this is it, I think. Not surprisingly, that's one of my children's favorites, too.
"She Could've Been Mine," "Sunday Morning in America," and "I Still Miss You" were the songs I heard on the radio in Texas, long before the record itself finally made it to the shelf of my local Target. They're solid songs and representative of the record, though not the best or strongest tracks on C'mon! I suppose my favorite of the bunch is "Adaliene," which is another one my children seem to like. It begins with the rather provocative line, "The first naked lady I ever saw was that tatoo on my uncle's arm," which is the sort of thing that would typically put me off. I didn't care much for the song the first time I heard it, because that first line soured my appreciation, and I wasn't really listening. But, the thing is, there's really a certain innocence about the song. It's a good example of real songwriting craftsmanship, because it tells a story and draws you into it, all within the span of a few minutes. It introduces characters and invites you to care about them. It raises questions, and leaves some of them unanswered. So, it's not just provocative, but interesting and engaging. My wife has pointed out that we never learn from the song whatever happened to "Adaliene," but we know that she left a mark on the singer's uncle, not only on his arm. Even the singer's dad gets all teary-eyed and serious thinking about this girl that his brother loved so deeply and wanted to marry. But what happened? The listener is left wondering, and caring, and that's the mark of a good story. My Oly'anna thinks that "Adaliene" is a pretty name, and I agree, but I guess I won't be using it for any daughters I may yet have. Keith Anderson has done too well in making that fictional naked lady on his uncle's arm seem like a real person, out there somewhere.