Album Review – John Anderson’s “Years”
What a great little late career record this is. With all the death and sadness country music has been suffering from lately, it feels so good to get something special from a guy you remember fondly from the past, who proves he still has plenty to offer in the present. You don’t need to rely on weepy-eyed reflection or nostalgia to get into this record, or rig the scales in John Anderson’s favor out of respect for what he’s done in the past. He just delivers here.
John Anderson’s latest album Years emerges from an extended period where he was dogged by health problems and was worried he may not make it through, let alone sing again. But even though his plump and cheery face now appears more gaunt like the air was let out of it, the voice that sounds like molasses run through a volume pedal is as pure as it ever was. Taking stock of life amid his recent health woes, Anderson weaves his harrowing experiences and hard-earned wisdom into songs about a deep appreciation for life animated through reflection, helping himself and the audience recalibrate on the most important things at a moment when this couldn’t be more pertinent.
Anchoring this effort is not one, but two songs you can slide right into the John Anderson songbook as keepers alongside all those early 80’s and 90’s gems, including the title track, which marks a powerful movement of song, shaking you to your core. John Anderson’s music has always had more of a folksy attitude to it. He’s made a career out of not taking himself too seriously. Making a move to such moody and weighty music on this record was a bit of a risk, but one that pays off handsomely.
And thumb your nose at Blake Shelton all you want, but he’s been one of Anderson’s biggest champions over the years, taking him out on tour recently, and calling for his voice as far back as 2007 when Shelton cut “The Last Country Song” with Anderson and George Jones both joining him in the studio. Now Shelton and Anderson pair up on a song called “Tuesday I’ll Be Gone” that gets it just about perfect, and their voices blend very well.
Years comes from the label Easy Eye Sound and producer Dan Auerbach, who is quickly becoming one of the most prolific studio guys in independent country and Americana. This also means you get a heavy dose of the 60’s and 70’s-inspired styling from the Black Keys frontman, including glockenspiel, and more glockenspiel, which has been featured on nearly all Auerbach’s recent records and in ample doses, as well as other bell bottomed characteristics that date this material to a specific period.
During a few moments, Auerbach’s touch takes some warming up to. On the song “Celebrate,” and the intro to “Slow Down,” this very era-centric approach is patently evident. But unlike some of the other recent Easy Eye projects, the production doesn’t get in the way entirely. Years has a vintage air, but there’s also ample steel guitar and flair you can qualify as Countrypolitan that fits the style and voice of John Anderson, and the mood the material looks to strike just fine.
The writing, which John Anderson shares with Auerbach on every track, gets a little soft in moments. I’m not sure “Wild & Free” captures exactly what was aimed for, but the opening song “I’m Still Hangin’ On” feels like John Anderson is singing for all of us, and the melody and temperament of the final song “You’re Nearly Nothing” is really excellent.
You may pick and choose your way through this record a little bit, including past certain songs where the arrangements may not suit your sensibilities. But there’s a lot to take away from Years, especially for a record from a 65-year-old artist that it was fair to question how much he had left in the tank moving forward. For John Anderson, the answer here is “quite a lot.”
Taking a bit of a risk as an older country artist with an established style working so intimately with Dan Auerbach, and striking a deeper, more reflective mood than most of the music he’s known for, John Anderson turns in another record he will be fondly remembered for well into the future.
1 3/4 Guns Up (8/10)
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April 13, 2020 @ 9:34 am
Great review, I mean, for a fake journalist and all. “The voice that sounds like molasses run through a volume pedal” isn’t a line taken from an interview but I like it!
When I see the various examples of cheesier mainstream pop country artists latch on to and support more authentic artists, it actually makes me feel sorry for them in a way. It makes me wonder if they in fact might prefer more authentic and traditional vibes, but are either unwilling or unable to commit themselves to breaking free from the cheesy pop machine.
April 13, 2020 @ 11:25 am
I’ve seen videos of Chris Janson performing with Jamey Johnson and he stated that Jamey Johnson was his favorite country singer. I’ve listened to Chris Janson’s first album and there was actually 4-5 songs that sounded country, but his albums get less and less country as time passes, so I get the feeling he likes traditional country but isn’t allowed to record it under the contract with his record label. I feel that is the case for a lot of these artists today, who actually love and respect country music, yet they know its nearly impossible to get a record deal in Nashville unless you buy into their system.
April 13, 2020 @ 11:38 am
Exactly…and I do respect when the mainstream pop artists help the traditional artists like Blake has done with John, but I just can’t help wonder what it’s like to really love country music, but make something else.
April 13, 2020 @ 12:07 pm
Actually the biggest example of this that I can think of would be Billy Ray Cyrus in the 90s. When he was signed to Mercury from 1992-1999, he was only allowed to be the executive producer on one of his albums, and the rest were very much controlled by Nashville. The album that Mercury allowed Billy Ray to control and produce himself, “Trail of Tears”, is actually a fantastic album with a great rootsy, country sound. So Billy Ray very much loves that country sound, but was likely forced to perform very pop/rock oriented music by the label.
April 13, 2020 @ 6:47 pm
Wow! I’m going to check out the old BRC album right now. Did not expect to see that comment here, lol.
April 13, 2020 @ 9:36 am
This is therapeutic. I would have missed this record. Thanks Trigger!
April 13, 2020 @ 9:38 am
Been waiting on this one. I commented previously on your review of Years that I liked it. My one worry was that we were gonna get the Auerbach blues rock guitar tone on every song. My fears were unfounded. Lots of twangy telecaster style riffs on this record. The song Wild and Free even has some baritone guitar on it! Music to my ears. John’s voice is like a rich warm cup of coffee on this album.
The song Tuesday I’ll be gone is absolutely terrific. With or without Shelton it is a winner. Say what you will about ol Blake, but nothing from him here in any way wrecks the song. Yeah, I’d prefer that Anderson sings it alone, but for what it is its great. And I hope it becomes a monster country radio hit. Thank you John Anderson for giving us this gift. Couldn’t come at a better time.
April 13, 2020 @ 10:04 am
You still get some of the cheesy 60’s production that Auerbach is quickly making his signature, but it’s not at the expense of the twangy guitar. I don’t love the production on every song, but Auerbach struck a good balance here, and hit a few tracks out of the park.
April 13, 2020 @ 9:38 am
I’ve been thoroughly enjoying this one the last few days. For me it’s a solid 8 or 9.
The production is a bit stilted in a few spots, but the voice throughout is inimitably John’s.
He was truly a big deal back in the ’80’s; am glad he’s still around, turning out good tunes.
June 16, 2021 @ 7:49 am
I loved john music from the first time I heard him.hes been blessed with a different voice that I love so much.i hope years isn’t his last album.i thank he should have had more #1hits.i wish I could meet him one day.he seems like a good family man.i hope God blesses him with alot more music.what a great songwriter and singer.love him and his music.
King Honky Of Crackershire
April 13, 2020 @ 9:50 am
I’m happy that John can still sing. He’s great.
I hate Blake Shelton, and his inclusion in this recording lessens the quality of it, as opposed being a neutral factor, which is what one should expect from a generic singer like Shelton.
April 13, 2020 @ 1:51 pm
Oh sod off. Seriously. Go read what John said about Blake in his Rolling Stone interview. How much Blake means to him. I was thrilled to see a new audience get introduced to John and his music. And they sound great on that song
King Honky Of Crackershire
April 13, 2020 @ 3:50 pm
Blake Shelton has a generic voice. He’s not a special singer, and John’s opinion doesn’t change that.
April 13, 2020 @ 4:23 pm
I’m no Blake Shelton fan, but if he wants to help promote John Anderson, I’m all for it, and “Tuesday I’ll Be Gone” is a great song, and Shelton sounds great on it. Let’s also not forget the way Shelton also championed Earl Thomas Conley.
April 13, 2020 @ 9:55 am
Something was bothering me about “Tuesday I’ll Be Gone,” and it just hit me. The chorus is a lot like Already Gone by the Eagles. What do ya’ll think? Probably not a big deal, but it rang a bell. Nothing like the FGL Kane Brown thing lol.
April 13, 2020 @ 10:23 am
Sounds like the same I V IV progression to me, which is super common, but it doesn’t help that the song titles both end in gone!
April 13, 2020 @ 5:11 pm
I mean it’s an old Skynyrd rewrite
Jerry Clower's Ghost
April 13, 2020 @ 11:18 am
I’ll never forget when John and company played in my high school gym in 2006. It was an awesome concert from a great guy. My family got to meet and talk to him, but I got left out 🙁
It’s great to see him possibly bookend his career with a masterpiece.
April 13, 2020 @ 11:49 am
well ….who doesn’t warm to the sound of john anderson singing at them ?
that said ,I have only heard the two songs posted above . I’m ok with ” Years” …the vibe , the viewpoint , the truth . But only ”ok’
” Tuesday …” while the song means well -the boys sound good together ,the production is fine -I just don’ think there’s a strong narrative going on . its an overall ‘miss’ for me as a song and when so many great songs are still out there in the bushes it makes it easier for me to make that comment . style yeah ….substance …hmmmm .
I still look forward to hearing john’s record cuz …well …who doesn’t warm to the sound of john anderson singing at them ?
terrific , tight review , trigger ,,,,
April 13, 2020 @ 12:24 pm
Normally I’m in agreement with your takes on songs. Tuesday I’ll be gone works for me because of a few factors. The line about taking a drive through the mountains on the Blue Ridge Parkway really struck me on an emotional level. I just took my wife and parents on a drive on the Blue Ridge Parkway a couple months ago and the beauty is breathtaking. Its the kind of place you get lost into. And I totally relate to the narrative of the song which is I perceive, about a man whos been through rough times, taking stock of his life and seeking some solitude and reflection ,and possibly a life change of some kind. Been there. So it resonates. For me, not every song need be overly detailed or intellectual. This one conveys just enough that I found a connection to it. Musically, its great and the chorus sticks in your brain and you sing along without even realizing it. That’s the metrics , for me of a good song. Some peoples blinding hatred of Blake Shelton may inhibit their appreciation of this song, but that’s their loss. Again, only my take and one mans trash is another mans treasure.
April 13, 2020 @ 12:41 pm
totally respect where you’re coming from here, kevin .
in fairness , I HAVE been listening to some amazing ( IMO ) writers lately …Gretchen Peters , Ashely McBryde , some Prine , of course . There’s no doubt listening to writing like that affects one’s ‘take’ on stuff. I ‘m trying to avoid saying things like ” better than most mainstream stuff” cuz for me that bar is so low that its not saying much about a song at all . I will say that if the song in question was the best song on the record I’d be concerned . If it falls somewhere below that assessment I’m cerrtain the album will be a joy to experience .
April 13, 2020 @ 1:21 pm
Gretchen Peters is extremely underrated, not just as a writer but her recorded work is seriously good.
Dancing With the Beast and Blackbirds are masterpieces.
April 13, 2020 @ 2:22 pm
Trisha Yearwood does “the matador” justice
April 13, 2020 @ 11:51 am
Thanks for sharing this album.
New music for the very empty post-apocalyptic roads.
King Honky Of Crackershire
April 13, 2020 @ 3:53 pm
Aren’t those roads great though? I love the effect Coronapanic has had on transit.
April 14, 2020 @ 2:28 am
You should take a ride through the Pisgah National Forest and across the Blue Ridge Parkway in WNC this weekend. No empty roads here. There are more cars on the roads than I have ever seen in my life out on the weekends. For a guy who just wants to be alone turkey hunting and fishing, I’m wishing the roads and woods were empty, but part of me is glad people arent just sitting at home worrying.
April 14, 2020 @ 7:19 pm
Always wanted to Turkey hunt in those mountains. My son and I are both tagged out here in FL, and Kansas and Nebraska both sent me refunds for our licenses we purchased because the virus hysteria has caused them to shut down their non-resident seasons. Good thing is the bass are bedding here. Guess we’ll be fishing for a while. Also, I’m fine with the album.
April 17, 2020 @ 7:26 pm
I had a hell of an experience down there about 10 years ago. Packed up to hike into Snowbird. There were wildfires one ridge over, so there were helicopters everywhere. Firefighters were all over the place. It was also the first day of bear season, so there were guys chasing bears with packs of dogs, too. We started down the trail when the whole forest came running in a pack past us. A momma bear ran past me at a clip, closely followed by two cubs. Then, we scared up a bunch of hogs. By the time we got to the creek, it was a cacophony of barking dogs and choppers. Crazy.
April 13, 2020 @ 11:59 am
Mark my words, Blake Shelton’s next radio single will be “Tequila Sheila” . .. How do we feel about that?
April 13, 2020 @ 6:54 pm
Seems unlikely he’d do anything creative with the song. A cover that basically sounds like the original is pretty pointless, and maybe lazy, in my opinion. But I’d be happy to be proven wrong.
April 13, 2020 @ 12:24 pm
I’m not a big John Anderson fan…
…but Years is great album. It’s much better than i expected.
“I’m Still Hangin’ On”, “Years”, “Tuesday I’ll Be Gone”, “All We’re Really Looking For”…10 tracks & no stinker.
The cover on the other hand… .
David Joel & Mickey Gilley – “If I Had It My Way” – Single/Track – Released
Mickey Gilley is back & “If I Had…” is already a hit on the Texas Top 100. A melancholic mid-tempo track with a strong chorus.
James Lann – “Everydayers” – Single/Track – Released
His last singles went to #1 in Texas & the title-track of James Lann current album should be a massive hit too. Radio friendly uptempo tune.
Michael Ballew – “Dark Side Of The Dance Floor” – Single/Track – Released
Sounds like a new version (?) of a track Michael Ballew released back in 1992 (Album: I Love Texas). Two step with fiddle & stuff.
Brook Chivell – “In My Life” – Single/Track – Released
Australian country rocker with a couple of hits & a new ballad. Next hit.
The New Graces – “Seasons” – Single/Track – Released
Australian bluegrass track. Love the harmony vocals. The female trio will release an album soon (Seasons – 05/14).
Will Carter – “Feel Good” – Single/Track – Released
Earworm for the summer season.
Deryl Dodd – “Let Me Hold You Tonight” – Single/Track – Released
Highest Debut/Most Added on the Texas Top 100 this week (#67). A classic ballad.
Flatland Kings – “In All It’s Glory” – Single/Track – Released
New male trio from England. Mid-tempo country rocker.
Troy Cartwright – “Round & Round” – Single/Track – Released
Good god. Meh. Warner Nashville is still trying to turn TC into the next Blake Shelton. Made-for-summer release. Station changer.
Kenny Chesney – “Knowing You” – Single/Track – Released
Midtempo. Sounds country. Not bad.
Anita Spring – “This Ain’t Pretty” – Single/Track – Released
Australian singer. Strong track about relationships in the current climate.
Brett Clarke – “I Wanna Be That Man” – Single/Track – Released
Middle-of-the-road fodder for australian country radio. Not bad.
Jordan Davis – “Detours” – Single/Track – Released
MCA Nashvilles wanna-be hipster releases his best song so far. One of the many male acts with forgettable #1 singles & mediocre nash-pop albums
Denvah – Just The Beginning – EP
Nick Hedden – Ride This Wave – EP
My Girl The River – “I Try” – Single/Tack
Hillsome South – Feels Like Home – Album
Kayla Ray – “Pocket Of Love” – Single/Track
Kylie Gale – “Fading To Grey” – Single/Track
The Good Lies – “Say A Prayer” – Single/Track
Pokey LaFarge – Rock Bottom Rhapsody – Album
The Washboard Union – “Dock Rock” – Single/Track
Ryland Fisher – “I Don’t Need Anything” – Single/Track
The Roads Below – “Should’ve Been Me” – Single/Track
April 13, 2020 @ 3:32 pm
“Knowing You” – by Kenny Chesney is quite refreshing! Reminds me of his 1994-1997 stuff. Since it’s a “promotional release” before the May 1st album release, I hope “Knowing You” gets to be a radio single someday. Can’t wait to read Trig’s review on the album.. I’m assuming it will be a solid album (besides Tip of my Tongue lol)
April 14, 2020 @ 6:54 pm
Dan Smalley-Rich and Famous, is a song you should add to your list. Very traditional sound and pretty good song.
April 18, 2020 @ 4:37 am
OlaR……I LOVE seeing your lists…..thank you!
I produce a radio show in England, heard worldwide…..while I play many of the artists you list, I always find something new to check out as well.
April 13, 2020 @ 2:33 pm
John’s voice is still great – warm, unique, eternally easy to listen to.
Some of the production goes a little too far in the Auerbach Signature Series direction, but overall it works.
I like that fat, champ-y sound on the lead guitar in several songs, too. A nice complement to John’s smooth vocals.
April 13, 2020 @ 4:57 pm
I like it , always great to see John recording again, whats to complain about.
April 13, 2020 @ 6:13 pm
“Tuesday I’ll Be Gone” was the first song I heard from this project about 3 weeks ago. I knew it was going to be special. And it is. I was awaiting a review from Trig and I am not disappointed.
April 14, 2020 @ 6:54 am
There is no mistaking John Anderson’s voice- amazing that it sounds just as good as it always has.
April 14, 2020 @ 11:12 pm
I’ve loved this guy’s music ever since i was a little child and i’m 36 in September. This album is fantastic. Good review as always
April 16, 2020 @ 10:56 am
I’m not feeling this record at all.
Seems out of place.
Don’t know how to explain that, aside to say I don’t get any emotion from it at all
April 19, 2020 @ 10:58 am
A bit of muddy production, too much bass, and the tracks kinda blend together… but doggoned if it’s not my favorite John Anderson album. The songwriting is sublime
April 26, 2020 @ 1:08 pm
Great to have such an important country artist like John Anderson back! I like that Years song but that buffoon Blake Shelton’s voice marrs and ruins the other song. He does begrudgingly get a few points from me for appreciating and championing one of his betters like JA though.
Andrew Scott Wills
April 26, 2020 @ 1:33 pm
I had the vinyl on pre-order…this one did not disappoint. Fantastic record!
Jack B. Nimble
May 3, 2020 @ 12:02 pm
This is a masterpiece. I don’t get where people say the production falters in places. From tip to tail, this is the best musical output that John Anderson has ever put out on an entire album. Sure, he’s had many other great songs, some better than the ones on “Years”, but he has never put out an album that “hits the ball” from the first note to the last note of the total album.
John’s haunting voice is perfectly recorded on this album and the arrangements used work well for John. The last time that I felt as good about a country album from an older country star was Don Williams’ “And so it Goes”, which is just as powerful a late-career masterpiece as “Years.”