With so many choices of what to listen to, and access to music being virtually unlimited these days, fans almost need to set up their own algorithmic filter to find the music that might best suit them. If I was setting the parameters of a formula to find good country music and separate the wheat from the chaff, I’d most certainly tell it to favor any songwriters from Oklahoma, and any throwback country artists from Canada.
As weird as it may seem to pin one of the quality epicenters of today’s country music in the snowy regions north of the border, it’s almost a sure fire way to narrow your search to something that may hit on your sensibilities if you like country music that speaks to the heart, and is beholden to the roots.
From the rural regions of Nova Scotia and centered around the port town of Halifax, E. B. Anderson and the Resolutes are following in the footsteps of fellow Nova Scotia native Hank Snow and trying to preserve the classic sound of country music with their own style and approach. That means hitting on a lot of lonesome feelings, adding in a little bit of the blues, and inoculating a healthy dose of steel guitar and twang into their music.
Their third major album Cold Ground may originate in Canada, but the songs follow E.B. Anderson on his travels and trials through various ports of call on the North American continent. From the sidewalks of the big and scary New York City, to the Jersey suburb of Matawan, and all the way down to Music City itself, Anderson takes you on a journey and includes the white knuckle moments in between as he searches for love, himself, and the next song to sing.
Cold Ground starts off with the swingy, jazzy “She Used To,” with answering chorus lines and sauntering neo-traditional style that makes you think you might be in store for a Wayne Hancock/ early Justin Townes Earle-sounding matinee of throwback tunes. But Cold Ground goes on to be so much more than just a period piece. This is about the songwriting first and foremost, with styles ranging from modern traditional to early classic, and the Resolutes standing behind E.B. showing they’re attentive and astute enough to interpret his sentiments into the appropriate musical tones.
Cold Ground will make you shuffle your feet and bob your head, but its most memorable moments is when E.B. Anderson slows it down a bit and let’s the heartache breed on bending notes, slow moans, and extended choruses that squeeze every last drop of emotion out of the story before releasing you back to the next verse. That’s what is accomplished in the song “I’ve Seen You Around.” One of the other stellar tracks is the stripped down “No One Said It’d Be Easy,” where the songwriting hits its peak.
No one ever said that it’d be easy
But non one ever said it’d be this hard
It seems like every road’s another goddamn detour
Sometimes it’s a wonder how we ever got this far
Cold Ground never hits a sour note or an icy patch, even if some of the songs begin to blend into the background a bit after a few listens, and even if sometimes Anderson seems to be straining to find his authentic singing voice. Hiding at the very end is a song called “Devil On Our Backs” that almost sounds like it was from a different session than the rest of the record—a little ragged and loose, but in a good way. It may deceptively be the best song on the album and deserves to not be overlooked.
Fools are the ones who limit their musical experience based on the geographical origination point of the artists. The truth is great country music can come from anyone or anywhere as long as it’s made with heart, talent, and a keen knowledge and awareness of what country music is supposed to be about. Nova Scotia? Sure. It worked for Hank Snow, and it’s working for E.B. Anderson and the Resolutes.
1 3/4 of 2 Guns Up (7/10)
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EB Anderson and the Resolutes are:
E.B. Anderson – Vocals, Guitars, Fiddle, Mandolin
Rob Anderson – Vocals, Guitars
Stephen MacNeil – Stand up and electric bass
Derek Thomas – Drums and percussion
Adam Kavanaugh – Pedal Steel Guitar
Ross Billard – Organ and keys
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