Kasey Anderson & The Honkies: Heart of a Dog
From the opening sonic assault of “The Wrong Light,” the leadoff track of Kasey Anderson’s new album Heart of a Dog, it is clear that the Portland songwriter is going for something different on his fifth full-length record. The album begins with a barrage of fuzzed out guitars and an almost industrial sounding drum beat while Anderson’s distorted vocals sing of kamikaze women and wolves at the window. The result is a much heavier sound than anything on Anderson’s previous album Nowhere Nights. It actually reminds one a little bit of “Prelude” from Chip Robinson’s Mylow record, which isn’t surprising since Anderson co-wrote the track with Robinson’s producer (and Nowhere Nights producer) Eric Ambel.
While the album never again reaches the same level of darkness or fury, the opening track certainly sets the tone. Anderson has made a Rock & Roll record, and he aims to let you know it right off the bat. “Mercy,” the album’s second track, and one of its standouts, also brings the electric guitars, but adds some horns and piano to the mix to create a fuller and more melodic sound. Anderson says this is a song he’s tried to record before, but was never quite happy with how it turned out. Until now.
In fact, a few of the songs here were rescued from earlier recording sessions that didn’t quite turn out the way Anderson had hoped. He credits his band, The Honkies with helping him find how some of those songs fit together. With Andrew McKeag on guitar, Eric Corson on bass, and Mike Musburger on drums, Anderson says he was able to just go into a studio with his friends and record a rock record.
The evidence of that is all over the place. Whether it’s the tongue in cheek “My Baby’s a Wrecking Ball” or the Dylanesquely titled “Kasey Anderson’s Dream” or the crunchy blues of “Revisionist History Blues,” Anderson and the Honkies follow in lockstep with their rock and roll muse. Even the ramped up cover of The English Beat’s “Save it For Later” strips the original of all of its New Wave trappings and turns it into a full on rave. It’s so far from the original that, on my first listen, I only recognized the song from the lyrics. I love it when a cover can so completely transform the original tune and still work so well on its own.
Heart of a Dog comes out February 15 from Anderson’s own Red River Records, but you can pre-order it now from Anderson’s website. As per Anderson’s request from the record’s liner notes, you should always “play this record loud.”