Audio Mixer: Logan Schlegel.
Photographer: Jim Shea.
Returning to action after a nine-year absence, John Anderson set up shop on his own Bayou Boys Music label and settled in to do what he does best: pure country. He was aided in his comeback by Merle Haggard, who penned "Magic Mama" specifically for Anderson while holed up in a hospital recovering from pneumonia, and it provides a nice touchstone for the rest of Goldmine. With its West Coast Western swing, it's proudly part of tradition but Hag's lyrics are nimble and funny, the perfect match for Anderson's voice, a nimble, supple instrument. One of Anderson's great gifts is how he feels inherently worn-in and laid-back but he's never lazy; whether on a ballad or a honky tonk tune, he never follows conventional beats, his ease disguising his idiosyncratic phrasing. Often, the slow, soulful songs bring out this talent the best and Goldmine leans on these sweeter moments, offering moments of heartbreak and reflection that play off each other well, while also providing a nice contrast for the livelier moments, such as the chipper groove of "I Work Alot Better," the riotous tale of a loose alligator "Louisiana Son of a Beast," and the nearly poppy "Don't Forget to Thank the Lord." Faith runs through Goldmine, surfacing directly on the straight-up country gospel of "I Will Cross O'er the River," but it informs the sensibility of the album, turning this into something warmly reassuring: this is an old vet looking at where his life is now and he's finding comfort with his faith, family, and country, not to mention the country music that's sustained him over the years. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine