Ryan Joseph Anderson - The Weaver’s Broom
Record Label: Self-released
Release Date: April 15, 2014
Ten songs, thirty-one minutes. Very little filler. It should always be this easy.
The Weaver’s Broom is a self-produced, self-released and self-financed effort from Chicago singer-songwriter Ryan Joseph Anderson that just might be one of the year’s most inspired Americana albums released this year.
The album opens painfully with the woozy, weary “Wicked Heart,” a whiskey-soaked ballad replete with stark piano and a gorgeous pedal steel. Though the song suffers from production issues (a trend that plagues much of the disc) the pain, sentiment and message are immediately felt, making for an impacting album opener and one of the disc’s best. Anderson kicks up the sonic ante on the shuffling “When The Bees Went Mad,” an urgent and open-hearted affair that rattles with sweat and vigor. Though it’s far from his best, it’s at least an effort to keep the hips shaking. He returns to heartland balladry on the lilting “Weep Caroline,” a sturdy effort that revisits much of the trappings of “Crooked Heart” but falls a bit short.
Anderson gets back to his bread-and-butter with “Jericho,” an enveloping and deeply absorbing work of fierce musicianship and yearning strings. Sometimes one song can do all the heavy lifting and the power of “Jericho” is that it does exactly that. The disc’s first act concludes with the rustic strut of the confident “Wandering Apparition,” a honky-tonk cut that shimmers and sways with Texas sass. As much a song about self-defiance as it is self-affirmation, it’s a song that signals the arrival of a fresh new face on the Chicago singer-songwriter scene.
Side B opens with the organ-drenched “Fortune and Fate,” a haunting and richly textured affair that is wise beyond its years. Though the shoddy production smothers the song from being A-list, there’s enough at work here to at least keep the disc moving forward. Anderson is a top-tier balladeer and nowhere is that more apparent than on the hushed intimacy of the heartache-driven “Before the War.” Singer-songwriters are at their best when they can convey emotion and empathy in just their utterances and intonations. Anderson is blessed with that ability and the strength of “Before the War” is truly something to behold.
Not content to mire himself in downtempo cuts, Anderson comes out crackling on the weary “Leave Me in the Middle,” an exquisite study in lap-steel-and-organ-drenched balladry that lingers long after the final second. The disc’s penultimate cut is “The Weaver’s Broom,” a well-constructed work that suffers from high ambition. In many ways, the song cripples under the weight of its words and the song’s emotional impact is never felt. Though it makes for an interesting album title it absolutely fails in extending the album forward. The Weaver’s Broom concludes with the spellbinding “Mission Bell,” a hushed affair that points towards Anderson’s limitless potential. From start to finish, “Mission Bell” is the kind of song Anderson can hang an entire career on. Wise beyond its years, thought-provoking and richly delivered it is exactly the song he’ll need to separate himself from a thriving Chicago music scene. Here’s to hoping he makes it through