Big Al Anderson and the Balls | Pawn Shop Guitars

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Rock: Rock & Roll Blues: Rockin' Blues Moods: Solo Male Artist
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Pawn Shop Guitars

by Big Al Anderson and the Balls

The legendary rock guitar slinger does it once again.
Genre: Rock: Rock & Roll
Release Date: 

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1. Something in the Water
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3:38 $0.99
2. Poor Me
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3:28 $0.99
3. Pawn Shop Guitars
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4:03 $0.99
4. Shake That Thing
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4:05 $0.99
5. Tell Me Something I Don't Know
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3:00 $0.99
6. Just a Thought
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4:02 $0.99
7. Drinkin' On the Weekend
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3:09 $0.99
8. World Came Tumblin' Down
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3:06 $0.99
9. Bigger Wheel
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4:22 $0.99
10. Have It Your Way
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3:21 $0.99
11. Airstream
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3:45 $0.99
12. What Did I Do
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13. Why Do I Feel Like Runnin'
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14. Animals
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Album Notes
He's been called one of the greatest rock guitar players. Ever. He's known on Nashville's Music Row as one of those elite writers of country songs who consistently pens hit after hit. Over 200 cuts at last count. Is he country or is he rock and roll? The answer is yes. Big Al Anderson is both--not to mention a healthy measure of blues, soul and pop. Larger than life in person and in music, Big Al encompasses all these sounds and does it with a style and a genius that's never been more apparent than on his latest release with his band (The Balls), Pawn Shop Guitars. Guitars is a big, juicy album, chock full of gutsy country, meaty rock and roll, sunny guitar pop and a good, greasy streak of blue funk. Best known for his 23-year stint playing guitar in the iconic and notoriously eclectic rock band NRBQ (New Rhythm and Blues Quartet), Anderson reaches even farther back in his history to find the roots of his far-ranging musical influences, noting that when he was a kid "a lot of rock and roll and country were the same thing." Raised by his piano teacher mother in Windsor, CT (his father, a bass player died when he was 10), Al was inspired by his sister's guitar-playing husband. "At first, I think I just liked the look of the thing." But soon a very young Al was devouring all manner of records--the Everly Brothers, the Ventures, Chet Atkins, Ray Charles--and paving the way for what would be a giant life in music. While Big Al was still in high-school, he was coming up in the black clubs of Hartford, playing with the blue-eyed soul and r &b group, the Wildweeds. Though he remembers his junior year as "the worst three years of my life," that period would also stay with him as one of the best times musically. "There was a camaraderie, a brotherhood, among all the musicians--black or white, it didn't matter. If the music was good, you were in." The band's regional hit "No Good To Cry" (just the third song Al had ever written) was picked up in 1967 by Cadet--a subsidiary of the legendary soul and rock label Chess--and climbed the national charts to #88. A few years later, with a switch to Vanguard and a change in musical direction towards Al's early country influences, the Wildweeds--and especially Al--came to the attention of NRBQ. They were looking for a guitar player to replace the legendary Steve Ferguson--a guitar hero of Al's--who had help define the NRBQ sound. Thus, in 1971, Al left Connecticut for New York City to enroll at the University of 'Q--a 23-year planetary course in all things musical."I got a precious education [from NRBQ]. You learn what to do and maybe more importantly what not to do," says Al. "There are only two kinds of music: good and bad." Al's early exposure to a wide range of musical genres served him well in 'Q. In a single show, they might play rock, country, soul, surf, not to mention playing songs from the "Magic Box," requests from the audience for any song, by any group, from any genre. This eclectic approach afforded them a nearly fanatical following, yet served them less well in the music industry machine. Unwilling to "play the game," the band achieved cult status, but not mainstream success. Al's mind- and string-bending guitar playing and giant stage presence had become legendary and, in the course of recording over a dozen albums with them, he had written some of the bands' most memorable songs, like "Riding In My Car" ( All Hopped Up) and "Never Take The Place Of You" (Tiddly Winks). But after over two decades of hard touring, hard living and encyclopedic music, Al was ready to turn his already prodigious song writing talent into a full-time venture. The year he left NRBQ, 1991, he wrote a cut with Carlene Carter, "Every Little Thing." It was only his third country single (the first "You're Going To Be A Sorry Man" was cut by Hank Williams, Jr. in 1988 and the second, "Hotel Coupe de Ville" by Larry Boone in 1993), but it opened doors on Music Row and Big Al was soon writing with Nashville's A-list country writers and the parade of hits began. Vince Gill, Trisha Yearwood, Jimmy Buffett, Martina McBride, Patty Loveless, George Jones, Leann Rimes, Tim McGraw, Rascal Flatts--Al Anderson's name is on cuts for all of them and that's just a partial list. Over the course of his metamorphosis from rock guitar icon to crack country song writer, Al continued to record projects of his own: compelling, red-blooded versions of some of his greatest songs. For Pawn Shop Guitars, Al has brought together the same band of ace Nashville musicians he's played with since coming to Music City 15 years ago. They were on his rockin' 1996 Pay Before You Pump and they were on his mellower, jazzy After Hours in 2006. The Balls--Glenn Worf on bass, Reese Wynans on keyboards, and Chad Cromwell on drums, plus a host of other Nashville heavyweights--are such a tight unit they can practically read Big Al's mind. "They know me, my music, so well, sometimes we don't even need to talk. We cut the songs on Pawn Shop Guitars in about 20 minutes apiece. This album is all about The Balls." So it is. But Pawn Shop Guitars is also all about Al's singular voice, as a songwriter and as a singer. "It's the most 'me' of all of my albums," he says. Over the opening kick and snare hits on the first track, "Something In The Water," Al's commanding voice jumps right out front, practically making a cheer out of the song's refrain: "Don't look like her mother/Nothing like her father/How else can you explain it?/Must be something in the water." When the rest of the band responds to that honky tonk shout-out with a instrumental juke joint explosion, Big Al has you right where he wants you--not so much under his spell as in his grip. And he does not let go. His vocal style comes straight from the gut, no punches pulled, and his telecaster broadcasts that same power and technique honed over decades of live shows and a lifetime love affair with the instrument. The songs on Pawn Shop Guitars were written over the course of a decade with some of Al's longtime writing partners--some already cut by other artists ("Poor Me" by Joe Diffie) and some brand new ("Bigger Wheel"). What they all share is that inimitable craft and soul that make a Big Al Anderson song rise above mere genre. So, whether it's stone cold country, like "Poor Me," buoyant pop ("Tell Me Something I Don't Know"), modal rock with a power chorus a la Peter Gabriel ("Bigger Wheel") or slinky, punky funk ("Shake That Thing"), the force of nature that is Al Anderson is big enough to contain them all.


to write a review

Baard Isdal

Exellent work!
Back to basic Rock 'n' Roll in true NRBQ style.
Sounds promising for the future. Rock on Al!


Big Al in Q mode
'Big' Al is back in the rock mode now after his mellow previous album "After Hours". Here, he sounds almost NRBQ-ish in tunes like "Something in the Water", "Tell Me Something I Don't Know", "Have It Your Way" and one of the album's best songs "World Came Tumbling Down". Other favourites are "Airstream", the title track and the funny "Poor Me". The only complaint I have with this disc is of a technical nature: unfortunately, it sounds relatively flat, so that the wonderful piano solos by the great Reese Wynans are often almost lost in the mix. Even if it's not as great as "Pay Before You Pump", "Pawnshop Guitars" is highly recommended.