Grover Anderson
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Grover Anderson

Murphys, CA | Established. Jan 01, 2006 | SELF

Murphys, CA | SELF
Established on Jan, 2006
Band Americana Singer/Songwriter

Calendar

This band hasn't logged any future gigs

Oct
10
Grover Anderson @ Locke Vineyards

Murphys, California, United States

Murphys, California, United States

Sep
16
Grover Anderson @ Pickle Patch

San Andreas, California, United States

San Andreas, California, United States

Sep
12
Grover Anderson @ Hermit Valley Campground

California, United States

California, United States

Music

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Americana dressed up in a folk-rock suit, Grover Anderson’s music is a joy to discover. Self described as following in the footsteps of Garth Brooks, John Fogerty, and Josh Ritter, Grover’s music has a classic sheen to it that inspires déjà vu. More than once while listening to The Optimist, his third album, I squinted my eyes and pursed my brow as I tried to find out where I’d heard that song before. But these are all his own songs (although “Pick Up Your Horn” was co-written with Jimbo Scott). Not all of these songs are explosively good – Grover’s subtler than that, giving time to breath and allowing them to come to life without drawing too much attention to themselves.

Of course, it’s not a perfect album. Some of the songs don’t have enough of a hook to keep me interested; they can be a little bit too slow and subtle. Even so, I enjoyed every song here, but there’re four songs that I can see myself pressing play again and again for years to come: “The Lampolier,” “Pick Up Your Horn,” “Handle The Lonely,” and “Grindstone.”

“The Lampolier” is the highlight of the record– a gripping story of murder and deception that gives an Americana twist to the ancient European folklore of the Will o’ the Wisp. They’re ghostly lights seen in swamps and marshes, luring wandering travellers to their deaths. In this story, a grizzled old Lampolier is the one doing the luring. Grover himself might be considered one of those lights, taking you off the beaten path and further into the music of the past. It’s the type of song that makes me love the genre.

Speaking of songs I loved, “When You Come Near” is superb. It has that smooth guitar hook, which caught my ears and reeled them in slowly. Not to mention the near heavenly saxophone that sneaks into the song and never leaves. “Handle The Lonely” puts Grover at his best, where his voice runs ragged with emotion. He’s not wearing his heart on his sleeve; he’s ripping open his chest, not caring who sees.

But once I’ve listened through to all these songs, the title struck me: The Optimist. There’s not very much cheer to be found. “The Lampolier” follows a man to his gruesome demise, “Philip Marshall Cates” unravels a story where the husband and son of Samantha Cates abandon her to work a farm by herself, until the father dies, and the son comes home to buy his mother. There’re songs that speak of love without heartbreak, to be sure, such as “Sick of You,” “Enough,” and “Little Spoon,” but then comes along another, like “Grindstone:

“Love’s down to powder and sawdust and grit / I’d like to call but there’s nothing left to say / And I never meant to take advantage of you like I did / The wind picked up and carried all away / Grindstone / (Love falls out every day) / (I just missed it).”

The more I listened though, the more I could see the sense of it. After all, the album’s called The Optimist, it doesn’t make any claims that the world is anything more an endless ocean, and nothing more than humanity unmoored islands floating away from each other. All he’s doing is calling out that there’s hope, hope that on occasion, these floating selves collide and give each other more to live for than before. That’s what I see the album as doing: in spite of all the pain, death and shortcoming of life seen on the album. Grover Anderson is looking for the moments in life, the moments with the people you love, however brief they may be, that make living worth all the rest of it. After all, just like he says in the undeniably happy “Save the World:” a singalong is gonna save the world.” Whether or not a singalong will indeed save the world is moot. The point is the hope.

The Optimist wraps itself around you like a blanket on a cold winter’s day; a moment of warmth and comfort amidst a bleak soundscape. Then it pulls you even closer and begins to whisper out stories in the night. You lean in closer to grasp the words, not wanting to let a single one get away. And if you’re not careful, you’ll find yourself bleary eyed by dawn, having stayed up all night at the fireside of a masterful storyteller.

You can buy it on iTunes and listen to it on Soundcloud.

*Oh, and by the way, I’ve been giving most of the credit for the album here to Grover Anderson, and while he is the most responsible for it all, these good musicians do an impeccable job making it sound the way it does:

Aaron Bishop (Bass)

Bob Matthews (Drums)

Rick Moore (Keyboards/Sax)

Kiel Williems (Guitar)

Michael Clebanoff (Mix) - Profound Distractions


‘The Optimist’ as a title stands as a stark claim for all Grover Anderson’s material to be judged upon, yet by its nature it also informs one’s listening and interpretation of the songs on offer. It can make songs that initially come across as one way, such as opener ‘Sick of You’ (regarding a long-distance relationship) and ‘Dancing Slow’ appear more positive than they are, or perhaps alternatively reveal the positivity for what it truly is. With a strong sense of storytelling and emotional understanding, Grover does more to tell a tale than he does on how you should feel about it. Yet that’s not ‘The Optimist’ is devoid of emotion. There are times when its titling feels sarcastic, such as on ‘Handle The Lonely’ which reads as a confession of anxiety, and on the desperation of ‘When You Come Near’. But it also allows the spotlight to shine on some of its sweetest tracks, such as the devoted ‘Enough’ and ‘Little Spoon’.

Grover has been working on this album since late 2012 alongside an incredibly talented crop of varied musicians, and one of the primary take-aways from this album is the incredible diversity of sound. Grover possess a gritty, folk rock voice which tends to place much of the music in a vaguely 90’s rock vein, yet with a fundamental difference; saxophone adds both an 80’s sound at times, while at others brings a jazz influence. ‘Pick Up Your Horn’, featuring Jimbo Scott, includes a banjo and a country folk style that reflects the story of a banjo player who attracted crowds from miles around, and ‘Little Spoon’, the lovely closer, is a sweet acoustic ditty that plays the innocence off the passion and drama of ‘The Lampolier’.

There’s also a quirkiness that makes itself known in the latter. The first single from the album, there is a sense of the influences of Jack White that come wafting from its make-up, both sonically and lyrically. ‘Philip Marshall Cates’ too weaves a rich, lush, complex landscape of events and people, all set to a strangely jovial backing with soft rock and jazzy undertones. ‘Save The World’ sets itself within adult contemporary, before dipping its toes in jazz and country and a thoroughly bizarre but endearing tribute to a girlfriend. Pouring over the album’s lyrics (of which there are many, more than it ever feels like there are but a huge amount just the same), it becomes apparent that reading in between the lines creates a picture, whether intended or not, that indicates the same inspirations for different songs. Past relationships maybe, long-distance ones with complicated circumstances and senses of longing. In truth, ‘The Optimist’ is a conflicted one; he feels the negative alongside the positive and oftentimes it is wading through these that allows us to really ask ourselves what this word means. Is it a shallow happiness? Or is it an observing of the bad times that makes the positive aspects of the stories stand out to be stronger in themselves?

I don’t know how you would classify this album, in all honesty. Surely one of intelligence and insight, of all the label-refusing records I have heard this one has to be one of the most defiant. There are so many influences here sometimes you have to remind yourself that many artists just stick to the same sound instead of having free reign of our shared cultural history and soundscape. If you were to paint Grover as Americana, that might be the closest you could get, because that catch-all term of America’s roots is the only way to describe such an interesting and varied release. If you have a taste for the wild, wonderful and the thought-provoking, find ‘The Optimist’ in yourself. - For the Country Record


It’s a common problem that bands will find a sound they’re good at and hit it until their audience is just sick of it. Grover Anderson handles that problem by playing songs in vastly different genres, somehow managing to avoid sounding like a tourist or faker in any of them. Frantic murder ballads, love ballads, jilted lover electric blues, back-porch pickathon shout-it-outs, brilliant country tunes, and downtempo minimalist all hang out on The Optimist. It’s a credit to Anderson’s skills that each of them sounds natural. It makes for an odd listening experience as a collection of tunes (multiple people die, multiple people get married–sometimes in close quarters), but each individual song is worthwhile.

Given my personal predilections, I’m more interested in the bluegrassy “Pick Up Your Horn” and the Bon Iver-esque “Grindstone” than in the Mraz-style love songs “When You Come Near” and “Enough.” But the gentle fingerpicking of breakup tune “Dancing Slow” calls to mind the weighty work of Ray LaMontagne, which seems to be the antithesis of Jason Mraz in my mind.

All of this love in stark contrast to “The Lampolier” and “Philip Marshall Cates,” both of which are intense murder ballads, the likes of which I haven’t heard in a very long time. To start with, “The Lampolier” is an incredible piece of lyricism, as Anderson puts together an intriguing, eerie story through a very structured rhyme scheme. Amid this complexity, Lampolier delivers a masterful vocal performance that sees him ratchet from a gentle speak/sing to outright desperate hollering. I still get shivers when Anderson roars wordless distress three minutes in. The band is a runaway coal train behind him, pressing the song forward to its inevitable end. It’s the single and the opener, and it doesn’t take many brain cells to decide that both were excellent decisions. “Philip Marshall Cates” isn’t as electric in its convictions, but it’s another death ballad that sits in stark contrast to the love songs.

Also, “Little Spoon” is my favorite love song released this year. Some love songs are huge, sweeping announcements of love–others focus on the little, pedestrian parts of love that make it so wonderful, like drinking Blue Moons together, spooning, and spending time together. Anderson’s tune is the latter.

So Anderson’s got a ton going on in this album, being a lot of things to a lot of people. But no matter who you are, it’s hard to ignore that Anderson’s songwriting skill is great. I look forward to seeing how he adapts and focuses his skills in upcoming work (or not). If you’re into people who play acoustic guitars, Grover Anderson has something for you. - Independent Clauses


Discography

The Optimist  2014

  1. Sick of You
  2. The Lampolier
  3. Enough
  4. Pick Up Your Horn
  5. When You Come Near
  6. Dancing Slow
  7. Philip Marshall Cates
  8. Save the World
  9. Handle the Lonely
  10. Grindstone
  11. Little Spoon

Tourniquet  2011

  1. Moonshine (ft. Samantha Free)
  2. Boulder
  3. Both Broken
  4. The Downside
  5. Westward
  6. Enemy
  7. Were Not a Very Good Band
  8. Living in Mono (Live at Soho)

Innocent Insinuations  2009

  1. Ember
  2. Mystery
  3. Fall in Love
  4. Something New
  5. A Better Way
  6. All That You Love
  7. Dandylyin
  8. Gratuitous
  9. Falling Down
  10. Source of Light

Photos

Bio

Raised in the historic mountain town of Murphys, CA, Grover Anderson cut his teeth playing the bars of Santa Barbara. Once again based in the Sierras, Grover has toured the US and released his third album, The Optimist, in March 2014. Known best for "Moonshine", a duet with LA artist Samantha Free, Grover's songs venture from folk storytelling to country to pop/rock, and his live shows are high-energy affairs inspired by Garth Brooks, Josh Ritter, and The Tallest Man on Earth.

Band Members