Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Recording engineered by Mike Gentry
Kasey Anderson brought the Honkies with him this time through, on an off day while touring with the Counting Crows this summer. It was hot as hell and he'd been dealing with hot as hell every day of the tour of outdoor venues. Below is an essay that originally published in February, 2011.
Anderson must have lived before. He might be on his third or fourth life, for all we can tell. You see, what we hear with him is we hear a writer who can't just be making it all up and couldn't have lived it all either. It's as if he's seen things and lived in so many different pairs of shoes, put on so many different pairs of pants, that a reincarnation is the only possible explanation. The thing about reincarnation is that there's no true way to track it. Those who haven't had it happen to them can't pinpoint it in others and those who might have lived previously don't have the luxury of retaining any memory of all those forgotten days.
All of it's either lost upon us or just gone and yet Anderson seems as if he has access to the whispers and the weariness that old bodies might have uttered or gone through, in that order, for the songs that he writes are caked in the astute observations of a person who's seen or is in the midst of seeing endless days. There's a photographic memory of what does and what has made him feel taken, of what's made him feel sullen and sunny, dead and alive - but mostly alive.
Anderson sings with a trained eye for detail, selecting his words with efficiency and with striking effectiveness, as if he's practiced them for an eternity, bit his tongue until he'd formed his thoughts just right. It's one of those things that someone uncommonly mature or wizened can do, or does do. He sings like a Johnny Cougar doing a version of Jon Spencer, but turning barnburners into ballads and ballads into barnburners. We get the feeling that the people that he populates his songs with are sensible, but crazed and they're teetering one way and another, not knowing if they're going to maintain their balance or fall magnificently, end over end into the great unknown, an abyss of what's next.
He likely believes in the phrase, "He's his own worst enemy," in regards to nearly everyone he meets. We all should. Anderson gives great examples of its validity and he presents these resonant examples of what societal pressures turn people into and then the feasts that occur when everything starts to go haywire. He sings of the crowds gathering around the gallows, salivating at the hangings that are going to happen. He hints at the devil getting in, at letting our eyes grow big and be watered by the "wrong light." What's identified in these slippery, wayward tales of everyday people just trying to enjoy their twilights out on their front porches, licking a single-dip cone and keeping a little change jingling in their pockets when all the bills are paid and the children are tucked snugly into bed, is the sobering line from "Jack & Diane:" "Oh yeah, life goes on, long after the thrill of living is gone." Anderson gives us those who are down on their knees begging for mercy and he gives us all the rest too, singing, "You've seen the glory now you're gonna see the fall." It smacks hard, but some wake up from the fall different people, raring for that glorious feeling to come around once again.