There’s twang, then there’s real twang, and then you have John Anderson. Like so many other artists who were big in the country realm a few decades ago, Anderson’s career was still chugging along but with less attention paid to it. Fortunately, the people that are Big & Rich never forgot about those who came before them. And while this record might not have any of those signature hits such as “Swingin’” and “1959”, it certainly proves that Anderson can still make you yearn for old-school country radio.
Anderson has his sound updated somewhat Easy Money, especially the radio-friendly opening tune that also happens to be the title track. Having much more of a pop or rock flavoring than what he might be accustomed to, Anderson sounds just a bit out of his niche but the arrangement ensures that it still generally works. Anderson rocks out a bit during the homestretch while some fiddles and electric guitar are thrown in for good measure. But Anderson is far more comfortable on the acoustic-leaning ballad “A Woman Knows” which shows his pipes quite well. Unlike the opening number, Anderson doesn’t seem to be pushing himself on the song. Instead the gentle country song is coming to him.
Although no credits are given on each song, Anderson has some help on the record: Willie Nelson, Merle Haggard, and a guitar solo from Keith Urban being a few names to hang your hat on. “Funky Country” sounds like it was about to be recorded by Big & Rich but they decided to give it to Anderson. It’s again just a bit of a stretch but the hooks keep you interested with its obligatory funky feel as he sings about raising hell and making people move. Again though, Anderson comes home with another slower, tender ballad called “Bonnie Blue” as Joe Spivey provides some subtle but important fiddle to accent the song nicely. And it’s here where things go to another level, with Anderson nailing the Celtic-tinged song perfectly as it creeps just over six minutes.
By now you probably know the way this album is heading, so yes, Anderson follows this gem up with another up-tempo but rather average tune delivered with much more passion than the first two. Again his voice is front-and-center, but it still falls short of what he is best at. This is the case with the slower, mid-tempo, and elementary country approach with “Something to Drink About” which could have been the b-side to “Swingin’” or “1959”. This might be the second best tune of the 11 on the album and seems to soar with the slightest of ease.
The momentum continues with the haunting and barren “Weeds” as Anderson again finds himself alone with his thoughts while a pedal steel is heard in the background. The tune slowly picks up but it sounds like a natural progression and in no rush to become a toe-tapping ditty. But Anderson gets a bit sappy with the piano-fuelled pop ballad of “You Already Know My Love” which sounds more in line with Keane than anything in the country realm. While not quite as adorable as “Weeds”, the song should be one you find yourself cozying up to after a couple of listens.
The lone up-tempo song that gels from start to finish is “Brown Liquor” which isn’t too glossy but much more honky-tonky as Anderson talks about going crazy quicker and getting t-t-t-tongued tied. However, it’s the wistful and waltz-like “Willie’s Guitar” which talks about the hole in Willie Nelson’s guitar. Although a bit odd, it definitely works quite well as Nelson brings his signature voice in during the homestretch.
Overall, while it could do without a couple of the up-tempo contemporary numbers, Easy Money is basically money in the bank.