Showing posts with label Kasey Anderson. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Kasey Anderson. Show all posts

Dec 13, 2018

Farce the Music's Top Albums of 2018 (11-25)

Our Top 25 Albums of 2018 were voted on by all contributors (including 2 new ones) again this year:  Kelcy Salisbury, Robert Dean, Kevin Broughton, Jeremy Harris, Trailer (me), and Matthew Martin 
(with friend Chad as a tiebreaker). We welcomed Kasey Anderson and Scott Colvin as first time voters. Today, we reveal numbers 11-25 of our favorites and tomorrow will count down the top 10!

24. Handsome Jack - Everything's Gonna Be Alright
The best rock ‘n’ roll album of 2018, from a power trio in Buffalo, N.Y. The Robinson bros. might have killed The Black Crowes, but the spirit of the band breathes through these guys. ~Kevin Broughton

23. (tie) Larkin Poe - Venom and Faith
Rebecca and Megan Lovell (formerly of the bluegrass band The Lovell Sisters with older sister Jessica) are mostly “known” as touring musicians for the likes of Kristian Bush and Elvis Costello…among others. On their fourth full-length album, the sisters absolutely hit the sublime with their powerful brand of roots rock and blues. Rebecca’s sultry and soulful vocals blend perfectly with Megan’s hot bluesy slide guitar licks for one of the finest albums in recent memory. ~Scott Colvin

23. (tie) Western Centuries - Songs From the Deluge
Great musicianship from the closest thing to a country super-group 2018 has seen. These guys are all heavily grounded in bluegrass, yet this album synthesizes all the best parts of American roots music. Come for the three-headed monster of vocals and songwriting, stay for the pedal steel. ~KB

22. Amanda Shires - To the Sunset
More than a decade into her solo career, Shires has established herself as one of the truly great songwriters and instrumentalists of her generation. With To the Sunset - an album that is by turns plaintive, unbridled, and fragile - Shires made what is, at least to this point, the album of her career. Calling it a "Rock" record or an "Americana" record is reductive; To the Sunset is an Amanda Shires record and, at this point, she's good enough to be her own genre.  ~Kasey Anderson

21. Lincoln Durham - And Into Heaven Came the Night

20. High on Fire - Electric Messiah
Is there any project Matt Pike is involved with that sucks? Pretty sure that’s impossible. Check out "Sanctioned Annihilation" & "Drowning Dog."  ~Kelcy Salisbury

19. Sleep - The Sciences
The Sciences is one of the year’s best records and moves beyond, “good follow up to Dopesmoker,” and places Sleep as the undisputed heirs to the throne of Black Sabbath. The Sciences is not only a neck breaking, sludgy love song to the universe, it’s a poem to the mysteries of faith, but it’s also a masterpiece. ~Robert Dean

18. Blackberry Smoke - Find a Light
These guys are working hard. Consecutive years with top-flight albums, they retain their Southern rock identity without being chained to it. This is an all-American band. ~KB

17. Great Peacock - Gran Pavo Real
I've been a fan of Great Peacock for a few years now and after their last album, I was excited to see where they would go.  As I would go to shows over the next few years, it became clear they were going to go in a more electric direction.  And, they absolutely did.  This album is a rocker full of the harmonies and introspective lyrics you've come to expect.  This is the one you reach for on Saturday night around midnight. ~Matthew Martin

16. John Prine - The Tree of Forgiveness
People are always naming "greatest living songwriters" like John Prine isn't still teaching a masterclass every time he drops new music. Admittedly, that isn't as frequent as in the past, but on The Tree of Forgiveness, Prine reminds us why he's the undisputed. Tuneful, insightful, and bright, this isn't a late-life woe-is-me dirge-fest like many elder statesmen and women give us; this is prime Prine. ~Trailer

15. Caleb Caudle - Crushed Coins
Caudle has been pumping out perfect country songs for a while now.  On Crushed Coins, Caudle hits his full stride.  These songs are the best set of songs he's put out.  The music and production are absolutely suited for his voice and his songs.  "NYC In The Rain" is a perfect song and a perfect Caleb Caudle song.  I don't think there's anyone else I can imagine singing this song other than Caudle.  If you haven't checked out his work, this album is the one to start with.  It's Caudle at his best. ~MM

14. Ashley McBryde - Girl Going Nowhere
The truth: Ashley McBryde doesn't fit the boring sonic pastiche that is mainstream country radio. Her songs are too good, her voice too unique. She deserves airplay and stardom though, and I hope she's one of the new leaders to push the door down. Girl Going Nowhere is a statement of being, filled with catchy and well-crafted songs. "Tired of Being Happy" is an absolute gem. ~Trailer

13. Brent Cobb - Providence Canyon
A great follow-up to 2016’s “Shine On Rainy Day.” The last three songs of that record were swampy and a little menacing, a thread woven through this album, particularly on “If I Don’t See Ya’” and “.30-06,” with their bad-boy Skynyrd feel. But when I hear “King of Alabama,” I’ll always remember the one time I got to see a then-fledgling musician, Wayne Mills. It was in Tuscaloosa in 2002, the night before heavy underdog Auburn beat Alabama 17-7. I was blown away then by the guy’s talent, and to this day I regret I never saw him again. No one that night or any other would ever dream of his fate: “It was a friend who took him from his family.” Cobb has done Mills fitting memorial, and made another great album. ~KB

12. Sarah Shook & The Disarmers - Years
It’s not often I can look to my hometown for musical pride. Let’s be honest, until Sarah Shook came around, Foreigner’s Lou Gramm might be Rochester, NY’s most notable artist (C’Mon, admit it, “Jukebox Hero” and “Urgent” were freaking awesome). Shook is a total badass and this album proves it. ~SC

11. Shooter Jennings - Shooter
Shooter is a portrait of a man who’s come to terms with his abilities, goals, and what he’s after. You can’t write a bunch of feel-good tunes that go hard with the beers, without a sense of purpose and humility …otherwise it comes off contrived and douchey, AKA most of the garbage pop country radio peddles. ~RD


Albums beyond the top 25 that appeared on multiple ballots: 
Janelle Monae - Dirty Computer
Hawks and Doves - From a White Hotel
Colter Wall - Songs of the Plains
Vince Staples - FM!
Eric Church - Desperate Man
JP Harris - Sometimes Dogs Bark at Nothing
Mike & the Moonpies - Steak Night at the Prairie Rose
Buffalo Gospel - On the First Bell
Pusha T - Daytona

Oct 23, 2018

The Bottle Rockets, Doing Their Steady, Solid Thing with Bit Logic

By Kasey Anderson &
Kevin Broughton

“Under-appreciated” is a tricky label, especially when applied within the context of a discussion about art. If one were to say the Bottle Rockets are an under-appreciated band, the claim would imply the existence of some sort of rock ‘n’ roll meritocracy, and no such thing exists (as evidenced by the popularity of Greta Van Fleet). To label a band as under-appreciated also carries with it the implication that said band is somehow less critically and/or commercially successful than is deserved, and there’s no objective way to measure that; there is no metric for what any given band “deserves” to sell or draw. 

We cannot say, then, that the Bottle Rockets are an under-appreciated band. We can, however, acknowledge that over the course of their 25+ year career, the Bottle Rockets have come to be taken for granted -- a band without which the genre of Americana may not exist, though front man and chief songwriter Brian Henneman would insist (rightfully) the genre has always existed. Henneman was the primary guitarist on Wilco’s AM, an album often cited as essential within the Americana (née Alt.Country, née Country Rock, etc.) canon. Shortly after the release of AM, Henneman and Co. made their own contributions to the canon with the Eric Ambel-produced album The Brooklyn Side and its follow-up, 24 Hours a Day

Every few years, the Bottle Rockets crank out another reminder that they’re one of the most dependably great Americanalt.countryrock outfits of the last three decades and often, Ambel has been on board as producer and auxiliary Rocket. Their new album, Bit Logic, is just such a reminder — by turns acerbic, swaggering, and tender. 

It’s a Bottle Rockets record, after all. Maybe Bit Logic is the record that will find the Bottle Rockets on the podium for next year’s Americana Awards, accepting a trophy they would very richly deserve, if there were such a thing as merit in art. If the AMAs don’t take note, Bottle Rockets fans can take solace in the quality of the work, and in the knowledge that the next album will likely be just as good as Bit Logic; just as good as The Brooklyn Side or 24 Hours a Day. It will be a Bottle Rockets record, after all.

We cornered the laconic Henneman for a few questions about the new record.

How long did you work on this batch of a dozen songs?

Not that long really. They were all written pretty fast, and pretty last minute. It was our most immediate album. We didn't even rehearse them. They were born in the studio, everybody just going off of acoustic demos I made. Just me and a guitar.

I notice Roscoe Ambel, who produced this record, will actually be opening for y'all on some of your upcoming tour dates. How far back does your collaborative history go with him?

We met Eric right after our first album came out in 1993. He first started working with us in 1994. We've worked together off and on ever since. He's good for us. He's "The George Martin Of The Bottle Rockets."

The Bottle Rockets are regularly mentioned in the same breath with the other pioneers -- for lack of a better word -- of alt country, having come of age in the mid 1990s. You yourself were part of the Uncle Tupelo crew, and I think you might have played on an early Wilco album. Do you ever reflect on being part of the foundation of a musical scene? What if anything does it mean to you personally? 

I was the guitarist on Wilco’s A.M. I don't think about this at all, 'cause I'm old enough to know this was not the birth of this kind of scene. It's existed for years. It just gets unearthed with every new batch of writers. Right before this wave we're associated with, there were bands like Rank & File, The Long Ryders, Jason & The Scorchers, etc. You can take it back to CCR if you wanna. Hell, Elvis mighta started it. It's all the same deal: Country/Blues with electric guitars adding up to rock and roll. They didn't really give it its own category name 'til our wave though. But it's been around a long time.

You once described The Bottle Rockets as "reporters from the heartland," and there's a blue-collar, everyman ethos is a trademark of your music. You're kind of a contrarian -- some might say ornery. Then you drop a poignant, tender ballad like "Silver Ring." Tell me about that song's inspiration. 

Our drummer Mark wrote that one. We liked it, so we did it. It's a sentiment I can get behind...

Y'all recorded a live album in Germany several years ago. I've asked other artists about this phenomenon: A lot of roots-type acts from the U.S. find really strong support in Europe. Why do you think that is?

I don't know why, but they have more interest and respect for American roots music. That fact is pretty much what brought us the Stones, and Clapton and whatnot. They seem to have more interest in our musical roots than we have in theirs. Maybe even more than we have in our own. Don't know why. They're just cool like that.

The title cut of the album has an old-man-shaking-fist quality to it; how annoyed are you, really, with modern technology? Show your work.

The album is really more about coming to terms with it, than shaking a fist at it. But if you are old enough, a distaste for it will come through. I'm old enough. I vividly remember when people were smart enough to know how idiotic and dangerous it would be to read and type while driving a car.

Finally, I have to ask about a song from the first BR album I ever bought, "Waitin' on a Train." So gut-wrenching, and it literally has a train wreck quality to it -- I can't not listen all the way through. Where did that song come from?

Bob Parr, the bass player in my old band Chicken Truck wrote that one. You'd have to ask him. Another one we liked, so we did it.


Bit Logic is available on Amazon, Bandcamp, Spotify, etc. 

Jul 27, 2018

Chasing the Sky: A Conversation With Kasey Anderson

By Kevin Broughton

Almost two years ago, Kasey Anderson opened up in depth here about his spiraling descent from artist-on-the-cusp to grifting, locked-up addict. He was then not quite a year post-prison. And while there was still a hint of an artist’s confidence about him, it was tempered by the gun-shyness you’d expect of a guy fresh from the halfway house and with a long list of pissed-off victims, many of them former friends.

Little did he know that within a couple of months he’d begin the long, cathartic and ad hoc process of recording a comeback album. In fact, he really had no clue what would come of the sessions, done virtually pro bono by a collection of generous friends and musical colleagues from the Portland indie scene.

Anderson’s voice on the telephone is stronger today. He sounds healthier, no doubt buoyed by the album-making process that was critical to his ongoing restoration as a man. The humility is still there, no doubt, but the knowledge that he’s made a really solid rock ‘n’ roll record has put a spring in his step. From A White Hotel, released today on emerging label Julian Records, is poignant, introspective and sprinkled with Anderson’s trademark irony, starting with the title, a reference to his drab lodgings for more than two years. Oh, and his name isn’t on it.

We caught up with Anderson with just a few days to go before his nuptials, and talked redemption, recovery, the virtues of not being preachy, and the inevitable Steve Earle comparisons. And the whole, stupid “outlaw country” thing.

I’m curious about the way your band is billed. I was partial to the name “Kasey Anderson and The Honkies.”  “Hawks and Doves” is the name of an underrated Neil Young album & song; why the switch? Were you worried about the local Portland anarchist community torching your pad to protest your white privilege? Sorry, I know it’s low-hanging fruit…

Ha! No. First, I decided to do it under a band name because of the way the record came together. I had written all the lyrics and had the structure of the songs, but the instrumentation came together in such a collaborative way that it felt disingenuous just to put my name on it. And The Honkies, I didn’t want to go back to that because all those guys were such strong personalities in their own right, and I just kinda wanted to leave it there with those guys because I have such fond memories of that band.

And I love that Neil Young record. The phrase “hawks and doves” is a political and military term. It seemed pretty appropriate for what’s going on now. Plus, it just sounds cool.

The first time I heard that song was on Scott Miller & The Commonwealth’s live album…

Yeah, yeah! From The V Roys!

And since it’s not “Kasey and the Hawks and Doves,” just the band name, any concern that nobody will know it’s you?

I don’t think it’s a horrible thing for me to make a clean break with the work that I did and the life that I led as a solo artist. It wasn’t a calculated move to do that; maybe it’s an added benefit? And I think that the way it’s being marketed through the press, it’s pretty clear that it’s a band I’m involved in.

This is a collection of a dozen pretty dang good songs. How long have they been percolating? Did some of these words get put to paper while you were locked up?

Yeah, about half of them were written while I was locked up, during my second year in prison. “Every Once in a While,” for instance, is about my first cellmate. That’s his story much more than mine. The other five or six songs happened around after the election, in late 2016. It took us a long time to make the record because of the way we went about it.

Tell me about this band, and how you got the record made; I imagine raising funds to get an album done might have been challenging for someone in your position.

The band is Jordan Richter (guitars,) Ben Landsverk (bass, keys, viola, background vocals) and Jesse Moffat (drums, percussion). Other folks who played are Eric “Roscoe” Ambel, Kurt Bloch, Ralph Carney, Kay Hanley and Dave Jorgensen.

Jordan engineered it and owns a recording studio in town. And I think right after you and talked last time, some folks reached out and asked if I’d like to contribute a track for a benefit record they were involved in. I told Jordan, “Hey, I’d really like to do this, but I don’t have money to pay for studio time or to pay session players.” And he said, “Are you sure you want to do a benefit record?” (Laughs)

…I wasn’t gonna say anything. It was a real thing, though, right?

(Laughs) Yeah, it was a real thing. It was to help this woman named Jennifer Holmes – who has since passed away – with her cancer treatments. So once I proved to him that it was a real thing, he said he’d get some people together. We covered this song called “Wise Blood” by the band Tender Mercies.  At the end of the session Jordan said, “Man, if you ever want to just come in the studio and roll tape, everybody gets your situation and knows that you don’t have a bunch of money to throw into making a record. There are people willing to play your songs for fun and just see where it goes.”

And that’s what we did. Jordan would text a group of us that said, “I have this day where the studio’s not in use, and you don’t have to pay me for the time.” So it took us more than a year, because we’d do a day here and there, and everybody would go back to their lives. So that’s how the record got made, and it was really generous of him to do that.

And then I sent [the album] to several of my friends and said, “I really don’t know what to do with this; I can’t put it out.” I have a friend named Nathan Earle here in Portland who’s in a band called The Get Ahead, and he told me about this new label, Julian Records. “They seem to be looking for bands,” he said. “Why don’t you send it to them?” I had planned to just try and put it out digitally, but the Julian Records folks were into it, and took it from there.

That’s certainly fortuitous.

It’s very fortuitous, and the only way it was going to come out physically. I mean it’s not really cost-prohibitive to get an album out digitally. But this was very generous. Everybody seemed to think the songs were cool, and were like, “Don’t worry about it right now, let’s just see what happens.”

When last we spoke, we touched on your being medicated for bipolar disorder, and how that can sometimes stifle creativity in artists of all stripes. There’s a line in “Lithium Blues” that says, “You took the words right out of my mouth.” Is there a balance you find yourself having to strike between mental health and creativity?

Yeah, for sure. “Lithium Blues” might have been the first thing I wrote in prison that I was really happy with. I had to go back and figure out, okay, there’s an element of magic to creativity, but there’s a much bigger element of math to it. And I know how to make a song so that the pieces fit together. If I can trust myself enough to do that, the rest will come along in time. That’s kind of what that song is about.  We talked about this a little bit before, but I had almost resigned myself that [playing music professionally] was behind me, that maybe I could do some shows for fun from time to time. But over the course of making this record it became clear to me that I still know how to make a song work. Whether this is a thing I get to do on a larger scale remains to be seen, but I was able to prove to myself that I can still put a good song together, even when I’m not up for five straight days.  

An article in Glide mentioned that you’re training to be an addiction counselor.  Is there some sense of duty there? Have you become more zealous about “the program” and living clean? Maybe a little of both?

It’s a little of both. I have certainly become more zealous about making sure that people who deal with mental health and/or addiction issues – especially younger people – have someone they can talk to without feeling judged or dictated to.

The name of your band, as you mentioned, has political overtones, and there are some references to current events on the album. But you didn’t lose your mind and start bashing people over the head with your opinions, like so many artists have done since 2016. Why do so many folks make everything about politics?

When I wrote these songs, one of the things I tried really hard to do was invite people into a conversation rather than dictate to them how they should feel about any given thing.

Thank you.

I really feel that’s a far more effective way to engage an audience, if you want to have that conversation. I have never responded to anybody – even when I agree wholeheartedly with what they have to say – addressing whatever they imagine their audience to be, by dictating what their thoughts or beliefs should be. That just doesn’t work for me, and when I wrote these songs I tried really hard to stay away from that. I wanted to ground it in narrative and open-ended conversation.

Yeah. It’s there, but it’s not preachy, and it’s open to interpretation. And believe you me it’s refreshing. Because I didn’t vote for the sumbitch, but I’ve had about a bellyful of being preached to by guys whose music I otherwise love.

Switching gears, redemption is certainly a theme running through From a White Hotel. How cathartic was this whole process, and where are you on the whole making-amends thing that started when you got out of the joint?

Well, in terms of the process being restorative, the making of the record – playing music with other people, being able to work on songs – was really, really healthy.  And it was good to do it in a way that I didn’t have to feel like my life depended on whether people liked these songs. Obviously I wouldn’t have put the record out if I didn’t want people to hear the songs, but it’s not going to ruin my life if there’s a deafening thud when it’s released. I’m still gonna be married to this wonderful woman, I’m still gonna be helping people who struggle with mental health and addiction issues. At the end of the day, the act of making a record was rewarding in and of itself.

The amends thing? Well…the second you say you’re humble, you’re not.

Ha! I guess that’s true.

(Laughs) Yeah. I’ll just say I’m really proud of the work that I’ve done. I think I’m living out amends to people to whom I can’t make direct amends. I’ve worked really hard at doing a good job of that.

By the time this article runs you’ll have been married for about a week. Was Caitlin a part of your life before you went away? How big a part of your road back to normalcy has she been?  

She was a part of my life. She wasn’t my girlfriend at that time, but she was part of a close group of friends. My girlfriend at the time was named Tracey, and she called Caitlin that night and said, “You’re not gonna believe this, but he’s gone. He’s going to prison, so can you come get his stuff out of my apartment?” So Caitlin went and got all of my stuff and took it to Goodwill in East Los Angeles. A lot of us had drastic changes in our lives around that time but we all stayed in touch for the most part. And Cait and I stayed in touch while I was locked up, and she’s been so supportive. She was never judgmental. It’s been one of the most positive things in my life – if not the most positive – to have that person with me every step of the way.

On the title cut you say, “I ain’t no kind of outlaw, and I never claimed to be.” The wit and irony are strong in you, Kasey Anderson.

(Laughs) Well, you know, that’s true. I never tried to market any of the records we ever made as any sort of “outlaw country” thing…

Oh, wait! Gosh, see, there’s so much irony I missed the irony. I was thinking in the literal sense, in that you’ve done time and technically are an outlaw.

(Laughs) I technically am an outlaw, and that’s kind of the point I wanted to make. It’s not all those artists’ fault that they’re being marketed and trumpeted that way. But a lot of times I’ll read an article about some “outlaw country” artist and think, “Man, I’ve actually been an outlaw and it sucks!”

You know, smoking weed doesn’t make someone an outlaw. My mom’s 65 and she’ll smoke weed and watch Netflix. That doesn’t make someone a badass. Figure out what you mean by “outlaw.”

Speaking of outlaws: Everybody’s favorite badass, Steve Earle, gets a nod on “Clothes Off My Back,” right down to the title of his 1996 post-prison album.  I can understand why you could maybe not resist a tip of the ol’ driver’s cap; it’s just too perfect. But aren’t you afraid he might get a big head over it?

Um…no, I’m not. Because I think Steve knows how good he is. He’s far enough along in his career that he knows he’s revered by people who write songs.

Very diplomatic, by the way.

(Laughs) But the point of that song…Steve’s been sober for a long time now, and he’s done a really good job of living his life according to that. And so it’s an acknowledgement that I’m not anywhere near where this guy is as a songwriter, and certainly not in my recovery. But I’m certainly a lot better than I was five years ago.

Yeah. I was really hoping you’d rise to the bait there.

(Laughs) I can’t.

I know.

Also, just to clarify one comment: my issue with “Outlaw Country” isn’t with any of the artists, it’s with the folks who use it as an easy/“cool” way to market and categorize artists. I don’t know too many artists who are actively seeking that label. I know Sturgill and Aaron Lee Tasjan for sure have poked fun at it in the past. That kind of marketing and categorization, to me, draw attention away from how great artists like Sturgill and Margo Price and Elizabeth Cook and those folks are individually, and makes it into this one homogenous category. It’s counterproductive. Their work is great, so let it stand on its own.

Newlywed Kasey Anderson is on tour. Check dates here.

From a White Hotel is available everywhere today, including Kasey's site.

Jun 28, 2018

Live Video Premiere / Hawks and Doves (Kasey Anderson) / "From a White Hotel"

Kasey Anderson has had quite the journey. From burgeoning singer/songwriter (and an early Farce "contributor") to Twitter fame and being seemingly on the cusp of a national break-through …and then came the news of wire fraud, a felony conviction, and prison. After serving his time, he quietly slipped back into society with newfound sobriety and heavy remorse …and now Anderson makes his musical return. His new bank Hawks and Doves releases their album From a White Hotel on July 27th, and whether you've come around on him personally or not, you've got to admit that it's good to hear that voice again. Here's the new live video of the album's title track. Hope you enjoy.

From Kasey:
This is a live version of the title track from the Hawks and Doves album of same name, out July 27 on Jullian Records. The song was recorded live at the Living Room in NYC, February of 2018. The song is entirely autobiographical and references my addiction, bipolar disorder, time in prison, and recovery. It also contains these lines, which tie in pretty nicely to the attached screen-grabbed tweet.

“Well, I ain’t no kind of outlaw and I never claimed to be / so you can take that cowboy shit and you can send it out to sea / on a great big wooden ship with all your love’s debris / and set it on fire”

Pre-order From a White Hotel LP or CD:

Pre-order From a White Hotel Digital: 

Jun 23, 2017

Reckless Fulkin' Rose: Kevin's Interview Playlist

Kevin has interviewed a lot of cool people since he started with us a couple of years ago. He's also reviewed a few live events and albums and angered a few people along the way, ha. Here's a sampling of his work and a playlist of the "Best of" his interviews and reviews that he put together. Give it a listen!

Zephania OHora

Willy Braun of Reckless Kelly

Kelly Hogan of The Flat Five

Robbie Fulks

Chelle Rose

Brent Cobb

Kasey Anderson

Jason Eady

Album Review: Jason Isbell - Something More Than Free

Sep 29, 2016

Prodigal Kasey Anderson plays gig, rolls tape

By Kevin Broughton

“Good morning. My name’s Kasey Anderson,” says the erstwhile Federal prison inmate, one tune (“Transcendental Blues”) into an early evening gig. “For some of you these will be old and new songs, and for others they’ll be all new songs.” Displaying just a smidgen of the wit he was so known for before he went away, he adds, “That was a Steve Earle song, but the rest are all mine…I don’t know, I haven’t looked at the set list, but this one is for sure mine.”

Anderson’s at the Standing Sun Winery in Buellton, Calif., his first announced show since getting out of the joint. “I had quietly played one before,” he says, “at a tavern in Portland.” The result of this one, though, is Sideways, ten cuts covering 45 minutes, and named for the Paul Giamatti film of the same name shot at Standing Sun. The Steve Earle cover does justice to the original and happily – audibly at least – lacks the smug superiority on display with every word spoken by the writer these days. And it turns out there actually is one more cover, a great take on You Am I’s “Heavy Heart.”

The most poignant cut is “Sirens and Thunder,” from the Kasey Anderson and The Honkies’ Heart of a Dog album. He couldn’t have known at the time how prophetic one line he penned was, but probably grasps the irony, post-prison: “It’s been a hard winter for the rank and hopeless sinner.”

“I Was a Photograph” is also a keeper, and a fine – and importantly, apolitical – look at returning vets with PTSD.

If this is the beginning of Anderson’s musical comeback, it’s a solid first step, and worth every bit and more of the $10 you can pick it up for at his store.


Sideways is available here:

Kevin Broughton is a teacher, writer and former attorney living in Georgia. He tries not to get too snippy when other folks use his material as a template.

Photo from Music City Notes.

Sep 7, 2016

Kasey Anderson: Lean in close, he's got a confession

Lean in close; he’s got a confession

By Kevin Broughton

In one of the earliest issues of No Depression – I want to say 1998 or ’99 – Steve Earle remarked on how much he had missed in the world of music during his long, tragic descent into addiction. Rotted teeth, wrecked relationships, hocked guitars and finally, a six-month hitch in the Cold Creek Correctional Facility were what it took for Earle to bottom out, then rebound. When he emerged clear-headed a lot had changed. “By the time I had heard of Uncle Tupelo,” he said, “they had broken up.”

I hadn’t heard of Kasey Anderson till last week, and he’d been out of the federal pen for almost a year. An established fixture in the Pacific Northwest’s alt-country scene, Anderson – gifted songwriter, musician and producer – had seemingly limitless potential. Bright, articulate and affable, he’d been extraordinarily prolific in the music business by the time he turned 30. With much more, it seemed, to come.

His hellishly downward spiral to convicted-felon status had a definitive terminus: the clang of a cell door on his first night in the joint. When things started to go seriously south, however, is a little harder to pinpoint. It was probably around the time he got the big idea to do a concert and benefit album for the West Memphis Three, that trio of misfits wrongly convicted of murder in 1994, and a cause celebre among many show business types. (Including, um, the normally reclusive Eddie Vedder, who tends to shy away from fashionable social causes.)

There were two problems, though, with this big idea that became progressively more grandiose. First, absolutely nothing ever came of it. And, much more troublingly, Anderson raised nearly $600,000 from more than 30 investors – many of them friends – that he just…spent. It evaporated like it was never there.

There would be no star-studded lineup with the likes of Tom Petty, Pearl Jam or R.E.M. The Boss and Lady Gaga wouldn’t headline the album – some kind of duet that would’ve been -- that would never exist anywhere but Anderson’s mind. And when the Three were cut loose in 2011, the shot clock started on his freedom. He had created bogus email addresses and impersonated industry lawyers and tour managers along the way. “I told myself consistently that whatever was going on with me,” he wrote in a letter to the judge who accepted his guilty plea for wire fraud in 2013, “I could fix it on my own.” Turns out there was plenty wrong, and not just on the surface.

No objective person who hears Anderson’s story could conclude that he set out to run a grand criminal enterprise. But mental illness and addiction (“cocaine, whichever pills were around, and Maker’s & soda with bitters”) kept him from seeing the criminal in the mirror. To be clear, Anderson readily admits that being a bipolar addict/alcoholic is no excuse for his actions. He emphasized that all culpability is his and his alone, several times. But I think it can help make some sense of the situation.

When you run a con so widespread and for so much money, prison – as opposed to civil litigation and bankruptcy – is the inevitable conclusion, and it’s been a rough four or so years for the musician. I didn’t ask – and in retrospect he probably wouldn’t give it a thought – but I imagine one of the starkest ways the Internet can tell a musician he’s now irrelevant is the “years active” entry on his Wikipedia page.

To his credit, he’s emerged from the nightmare sober, very humble, and if not happy, then certainly in a place of relative personal peace.

We caught up with him after his shift at a friend’s Portland store, Animal Traffic  (“Work wear,” quips Anderson, “for people who don’t work”), and chatted musical second acts, possible paths to redemption, and the wisdom of not running up prison debts.  

You re-surfaced publicly a week or so ago at Saving Country Music, but you’ve been out of actual custody since last Halloween. What have you been doing the last 10 months?

I spent six months in a halfway house, which is where they help you transition back into the world. I’ve been on probation, and I work full time in a friend of mine’s shop here in Portland. And that’s pretty much it. I’m just trying to get my feet back underneath me and make some amends where I can, and get life back on track and try to be a human being.

I imagine the scheme that got you into trouble started to seriously unravel when the West Memphis Three got out of prison in 2011; have you had any contact with them since your release, and if so, did you offer an apology?

Not since my release, no. I saw Jason Baldwin when he got out; this is something I’m still proud of --though it was under somewhat spurious circumstances – the first rock show he ever saw was my band at the Sunset Tavern in Seattle.  So that was a cool deal, but it was hard to reconcile with what I knew was going on at the time. So no, I haven’t been in contact, though I reached out a little bit to [Seattle producer] Danny Bland and offered an apology and tried to make amends, though I haven’t heard back.

My M.O. when I got out was to try to do that part of the 12-step program, which is I’m going to make direct amends to those I can and to those whom it wouldn’t harm in some way. So I reached out to as many people as I could; if I heard back from some of them, great; if not, it’s understandable. Hopefully after a while they’ll see I’m living in such a way that’s conducive to making amends.

A casual yet cynical observer might see your 2012 diagnosis of Type 1 Bipolar Disorder as a way to dodge doing hard time, a close cousin of “Hey judge, I get it now and I’m going to rehab.” You alluded to your being “mentally ill” in a letter to the judge. Was there ever a time before the walls closed in that you thought, “Maybe there’s something seriously wrong with me mentally?”

There were times when other people close to me suggested that my problems weren’t just addiction but something else. But I had no real frame of reference because I spent my time in an industry where accountability is not the number one priority. And it wasn’t for me – and the folks around me – until the wheels started to seriously come off. But the diagnosis made sense, and I did try to use it as an excuse: “Don’t you see I wasn’t myself?”

But the more time I spent with myself and the more time I spent incarcerated, I came to the point where I am now, where I can look at my own life and see that addiction and mental illness certainly played a role in what I did. But that doesn’t help anybody who was victimized by me, either financially or personally in some other way to say, “Well you know I’m bipolar.” Because the response would be, “Well, best of luck with that, but where’s my money?”

In private conversations with those with whom I’ve made amends – because I haven’t talked much about this publicly – I’ve said, “The diagnosis is accurate but it doesn’t excuse what I did.”

Are you clinically medicated now for being bipolar, and is it reasonable to assume that the substance abuse up to the time it all fell apart was self-medication?  Also, are you treating it with therapy?

Yeah. I’m medicated and have been since Oct. 24, 2012, which is the last time I had any sort of substance or alcohol. In November before I went away, I took a little break from it when I decided it was a good idea to go to Los Angeles and live with my girlfriend, which turned out not to be such a great idea in the eyes of the court.

But yeah, I’m still taking 900 milligrams of lithium and 100 milligrams of Zoloft; the lithium causes tremors, so I’m taking 60 milligrams of Propanolol – which isn’t any kind of anti-psychotic medication, it just helps with the tremors.  And I also go to therapy, which is mandated by the terms of my probation.

In another life I was a criminal defense lawyer, so I’m curious about something. After your indictment but before plea negotiations with the U.S. Attorney’s office began, what was your expectation as to doing time? Did your lawyer let you know early on that there was a strong likelihood of incarceration?

I had two attorneys [from the Federal Public Defender’s office] and in our first meetings when we were sort of fleshing things out, I was a frustrating client because I didn’t know how much money I’d taken or how much I’d spent. One put a couple pieces of paper in front of me and said, “These are the people who say they’ve lost this much money. Is this accurate?” I said, “I mean, probably. If someone says I took money from them I probably did.”

When we started getting closer to entering the plea, they said, “Let’s try for a year and a day. That would be best case, so let’s be prepared for at least a year and a day.” Well, as soon as I (long pause)… I guess “absconded” is the right word, because I wasn’t really on the run, but I went to my girlfriend’s in LA and didn’t tell anybody about it…

I’d say that’s absconding.

(Laughs) Yeah, yeah, I guess that’s absconding, but it’s not attempted escape. But as soon as they got wind of that, my lawyer called me and said, “You can either get on a plane and fly home and self-surrender, or they’re gonna kick your girlfriend’s door in because they absolutely know where you are right now.” So I flew home that night. From that point on, there was no shortage of expletives thrown my way by my attorneys. They said, “We’ll do the best we can; you had a shot and now you don’t have that shot anymore.”

So the prosecutor at first was asking for 87 months; he really had a pretty low opinion of me and rightfully so, given the information he was working with.  And fortunately for me, he took another job.

Wow. That’s freaking lucky, dude.

Yeah, I know. He took a job in the private sector and another prosecutor picked it up and he was like, “I don’t know this kid from Adam, how about 46 months?” My lawyers said that was for sure the best we were gonna do; take the deal, we’ll go to sentencing with that.

There was no point in [my lawyers’ telling me], “We’ll get you off with some probation.” As soon I turned that corner and headed to Los Angeles my lawyer said, “You’re fucked.” That was pretty much it, she just said, “You’re fucked. You did this to yourself; we’ll do our job, but you had your chance and you blew it.”

There was never any thought to taking it to trial.

No, not really. The only way we could’ve done that was with the mental health defense…but for most of that time, I paid rent, I had a car, I played shows, I made records. You’re not gonna prove someone was intermittently insane over the course of several years. A trial wouldn’t have been fun for anybody. I didn’t want my folks or anybody to have to go through that. 

I want to back up for just a second. I’m guessing this wasn’t, in your mind, a criminal enterprise from the get-go. You didn’t set out and say, “I bet I can bilk a bunch of people by talking about the West Memphis Three.” As I understand it, one of the tendencies or characteristics of someone who’s Bipolar Type 1 is delusions of grandeur…


…and you get these grandiose impulses from time to time. Did you think, “I can do this”? Did it start out that way, and then maybe “Well, I’ve gotta have expenses to live on,” and you end up shuffling money around? Was that how this think evolved?

Yeah, that’s pretty accurate. It’s one of those things that’s a real point of contention for me, but it doesn’t do anyone else any good because the outcome is the same. 

I met with Danny Bland at South By Southwest in 2009 and we talked about it in earnest. We had a conference call with Lori Davis, Damien Echols’ wife not long after and talked about it with her in earnest. So it started out for me as a very real thing. But that ended – that’s as far as it went for Danny, that conversation with Lori. And I said I was going to raise the money.  And once I had the money, yeah, you’re right. I was living in Europe at the time and I thought, “If I go to Italy for a couple days and spend a thousand bucks, I’ll just put it back in there; I’ll just play a couple shows and put it back.” Then all of a sudden a thousand bucks is a hundred thousand bucks, then it’s $400,000, and I’m neck deep in it. And there’s nothing true about it anymore.

And all you can do is lie, and keep lying.

Yeah, exactly. Although it’s been brought to my attention by more than one person that if at some point I had just said, “Hey, guys, I spent that money, it’s gone and you’re not gonna get it back,” the outcome would not have been good, but it wouldn’t have been what it was.

You wouldn’t have been in the federal joint, I guess.

Probably wouldn’t have. Would have been more of a civil deal, bankruptcy, etc.

Did you have to do the elocution --verbal confirmation that you had done those bad acts – before you were sentenced?

Yep, sure did.

Were any of your victims in the courtroom at your plea or your sentencing? Did that have any additional impact, seeing those folks in person?

Nobody was there that I saw. I think – and I hesitate to speak for any of them because I haven’t been in contact with them – but once it became public that I was probably going to prison and it involved federal charges, I think a lot of them figured, “Okay, he’s probably going to get what’s coming to him and I can go back to living my life.” I have to imagine that a lot of them were pretty consumed with it until I cut off all conversation with them. Because no matter what sum of money was involved for each individual, they’re trying to get their money back. And there was probably no small amount of relief in knowing that the government had it.

Asking you “How was life in prison?” would be offensively stupid. But I’m curious (a) whether there was one particular moment when the reality of incarceration sank in on you; and (b) whether a Kasey Anderson jail song may ever be in the works?


That’s a thing, you know, jail songs?

Yeah, oh yeah. They do jail songs.

I would say the reality I was in prison was Night One, because I came in kinda late after being in court all day and they put me in a cell in the corner. I was at SeaTac, which is a holding facility for people of all different custody levels. You don’t really go outside, you don’t see the sun, the rec yard is in the unit. I had never been in trouble before. I went right to sleep, spent from the last 72 hours. I woke up the next morning and stuck my head out of my cell, and there’s a bunch of black guys watching TV. So I started watching, and this white guy grabbed me and threw me back in my cell and said, “The white TV is over here!”

Oh, wow. So this wasn’t Club Fed. I know it wasn’t Supermax in Colorado, but…

Well, the second year was pretty much like a community college, and more or less Club Fed. But that first year at SeaTac was…not like Supermax, but a high-security facility where you’re locked down a good part of the day, or mingling with people that have seriously harmed other people.

So that first day was, “Okay. I’m in prison now and this is how it’s gonna be.”

Do you have any Aryan Brotherhood tats, since you had to watch the white people’s TV?

I actually ended up not having to watch the white TV. I told the guy, “Look, I don’t want any trouble but I do like basketball, and it doesn’t seem like you guys have basketball on. So I’m just gonna go watch with the black guys.” He told me fine, but nobody would have my back if anything happened.  And that was the end of it.

It’s probably a lot harder-edged in the higher-security facilities. But when you’re stuck in the unit with everyone all day, there’s going to be some intermingling. And that was good for me, being able to sort of bounce back and forth. So, no, I didn’t pledge any sort of allegiance to anyone.

Did you ever get physically hurt by anybody?

No. I saw things happen, ah, mostly at SeaTac I saw things happen that weren’t pleasant. My experience in prison was if you just kinda cruise along and work your own program and don’t lie to people or rack up a bunch of debt, you’re more or less gonna get left alone.

“Rack up a bunch of debt?”

Well, like card games or betting on football; you can’t bet with money, so it’s like food at the commissary, chips…pretty much anything you can think of.  And I didn’t do any of that to begin with. But that’s where you see people get into trouble: Where they give people their word and break it, or they owe somebody a six pack of Pepsi and don’t pay it. That’s when there’s trouble.

Did you lift weights and get all buff?

Uh, I worked out. I played basketball. I didn’t hit the weight pile because I’m not a strong dude and didn’t have any desire to put weight on that way.  I did get in pretty good shape by doing cardio. Pushups, crunches, stuff like that. I didn’t go crazy

At SeaTac I played a lot of basketball. At Sheridan – the second year -- they had a music program so I played a lot of guitar. We actually put a little band together. And on all federal holidays we’d do a concert. That was cool to get plugged back into music in some way or another…there were some songs I had written and never heard how they sounded with a band, so that was a cool way to test them out. And these were good enough players; probably not the guys I would use in a studio, but they were capable dudes I could bounce songs off of.

How much writing did you do? Prose, I mean. Is there a book inside of you as a result of this experience?

You’re not the first to suggest that. I did a lot of writing when I first got in, and looked at it when I got out and didn’t think there was a whole lot I can use.  I actually have been working on some prose and think I’m about a third of the way done with it and I’m not sure where it’s gonna go yet. I mean, it’s good to be clear-headed enough to actually be sidetracked by life stuff.  So I told my girlfriend the other day that I need to take an hour or two and just sit down and write, whether it’s prose or songs or whatever.

And you’re legit sober?  

Yeah, I am, since that date of Oct. 24, 2012. 

How do you feel, physically and mentally these days?

Physically I feel pretty good. I keep coming up with a clean bill of health; my girlfriend and my mother are furious because I still eat like a teenager. I still have that addict’s diet of a lot of sugar. They tell me I’m gonna kill myself, and I keep coming back with clean blood tests, so I’m gonna keep eating Sour Patch Kids till a doctor tells me otherwise. (Laughs) I’m not in as good shape as I was when I got out and I should probably get back into the gym. I probably feel as good as I have…but it’s so hard to tell. Looking back, I felt like shit when I was using, but you still think you feel good.  So I feel like I’m healthier than I ever was, but it’s hard to tell how much of that is just the subtraction of narcotics, versus any kind of healthy regimen.

The mania…I’m guessing it made for some really prolific songwriting.  Has getting sober tamped that down any?

It definitely made for some productive long nights that stretched into long days of working on something. So I’ve definitely lost something – with the lack of narcotics – the desire to stay up all night until a song is finished, or write three songs at the same time and finish them all.

Now it’s more, “Okay, this is a good idea; let’s get down what I have and we’ll go from here.” So I finish them when I finish them. It’s changed my focus. I was talking to a friend who had tried lithium but he gave it up because he felt like it really deadened his senses. He’s a painter, and it really affected him artistically. It hasn’t really affected me that way, I think, because I had a lot of really good teachers along the way who taught me to look at [songwriting] as a trade, and not some crazy, muse-inspired impulse. If you know how to rebuild an engine, you know how to rebuild an engine. It might take longer depending on the model or the circumstances, but you know how to do it.

And that’s really what I’ve tried to lean on; I guess I won’t know how well I’m doing at it until people actually hear the songs. But what I’ve leaned on in terms of satisfying my own creativity is, “I know how to do this.”

Based on some of the thoughts you shared with Trigger the other day, you seem resigned to pariah status, at least initially. Do you see any path to redemption, generally, and if so, what is it?

My path to redemption – such as it is – is what I mentioned to you earlier, and that’s making living amends. That’s far more important to me than being someone people come out and see or someone whose records get reviewed. And I think for right now, it keeps me a lot more grounded if right now, I don’t think about what my relationship with music or the music industry is going to be.

Obviously, if someone says, “Do you want to do an interview?” I’ll do it if it feels right. I’m not actively seeking publicity. I have a website and a Facebook page that I think has 150 fans. For me, that stuff will come if it comes. I’m at a point in my life where I’ve already had a lot of fun playing music. And I’m not old, but there’s still time that if something’s gonna happen, it’ll happen. But I need to start thinking about what the rest of my life is gonna look like.

For the most part, I’ll say that the people who were my friends when I went in were my friends when I came out, whether they’re involved in the music industry or not. But, who knows what would happen if I said to Isbell, “Hey, why don’t you take me back out on tour?” I imagine the tone of the conversation might change a good bit.

You toured with Jason?

Yeah, Jason and I toured in late 2011, maybe early 2012 and built up a pretty good friendship. And he’s been cool to me. I mean, we don’t talk every day…

So, you didn’t stick him in this deal…

No.  And he’s been like – and this is the way most people have been – he said, “You never did anything to me, dude, and the rest of it is not my business.”

Seems like he’d be a guy who’d give you a shot. He’s a pretty sweet guy.

Oh, yeah, and he’s definitely been encouraging. And I was in when his record went to number one. And I called him from prison and he didn’t pick up, and I thought, “Well, I probably wouldn’t have either.” And when I got out he said, “Look man, I didn’t know how to accept a prison call; I didn’t know it was you and I’m so sorry.”  He doesn’t have to be that way, but again, I haven’t asked him or anybody, “Hey, let’s do a show or go out on tour,” because I want them to know that my relationship with them is based on friendship and not some “social climber” thing.

And I don’t think I’m in position to ask people for slots on bills, or to listen to songs. If they want to hear them, they’ll find them. That’s the way music has always been.

Your talent is self-evident, and I feel cheated that I’ve only recently become acquainted with your work.  Do you have any general plan for a second act in music, or are you just doing the one day at a time thing?

Right now I’m doing one day at a time. Eventually I want to make a record for a lot of reasons, one because I wrote songs while I was in there, and I’ve written songs since I’ve been out that I think are really good songs. I think the world needs as many really good songs as it can get. I also really like being in the studio and working with [producer Eric] Roscoe [Ambel] and my other friends – some folks I had talked about recording with before I went in and wasn’t able to.

In terms of any sort of career, right now I don’t have any expectations; I’m not at a point where I can count on music to pay my bills or pay my restitution. I don’t know if I ever was, because it’s hard to know how well the records or tours would’ve been received if I hadn’t been using resources that didn’t belong to me. Right now this is just a way for me to practice gratitude; to be grateful playing music. I’m not drawing up a five-year plan in a notebook, though.

I downloaded Let the Bloody Moon Rise from your website today. Quite the bargain at five bucks. I feel like I’m stealing from you, frankly. But my email confirmation/receipt said it was order number 00009. Is that a true indicator of the current lack of interest?

Yeah, I think that’s about where we’re at.

Well I’ll just say this: With prices like these, you can’t afford not to buy.

(Laughs) That’s right! Yeah, that’s one that got released in some fashion in 2014, after I was already in. And that’s a deal where I did just such a disservice to that record and that band; I’ll go on record and say, “That’s a good fucking rock ‘n’ roll record.” That’s the sort of record I would have wanted to hear if I was a rock music fan in 2014.  But, that’s another situation where I let those guys down, and everybody’s moved on and doing their own thing, so you can’t do too much looking back.

And what’s the one thing you most want people to understand about you, right this minute? And I’ll add a caveat: I didn’t factor into that question the – whatever step it is of the 12 about making amends – so what do you think is most important right now?

Two things I said over the weekend…I was playing a show at a winery, and it was a really fun time. And I was talking to John, my friend who owns the place, and he asked me sorta the same thing.

I said, “I do want to make amends wherever I can, and it’s important to me to live that out.” The other thing is: I haven’t forfeited the right to write songs and to be good at writing songs, and I’m going to do it. I was without my freedom for a couple of years, and I’ll probably be paying restitution for as long as I live, and that’s well deserved. And if you think I’m an asshole or don’t like the songs, that’s fine. But I’m gonna keep writing and playing, whether it’s in my basement or in front of a bunch of people on stage. So the degree to which anybody is cognizant of the fact that I’m doing it, get comfortable with it. 


Kasey Anderson is a man who’s has been down and kicked plenty, with more likely to come. We don’t ask for much here at FTM. But his music can be found at his site’s store, and I’m asking you – as a personal favor – to go there and download a digital album for five bucks. Five bucks, people! And oh by the way, it’s freaking quality music. I’m serious. So thanks.  -- Kevin

Photos from Wikipedia and Kasey Anderson's Facebook page


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