I spent the time listening to Change Will Come (without the benefit of notes) for the first time trying to decide from whence John Anaya hails. His Americana is very authentic, passing over a song called ‘California’ which is a dead giveaway, there are elements of vocabulary and inflections of accent that suggest somewhere in the USA. There is blues harp and country fiddle but the voice doesn’t pin him down. And yet there’s a Brtishness about his style in the use of cello and keyboards that suggests differently.
It turns out that John is from Edinburgh – or at least that’s where he lives now – and has been a part of the folk scene there for long enough to release five solo albums and put a band together. Four members of that band: Stuart Crout, Juanjo Mata De Acuna, Ben Errington and Martin Beer form the foundation of this album with friends from New Orleans, Alaska and Oregon. The last of these, Renee Tyler, provides the orchestral keyboards which are a major part of John’s sound here.
The fist track, ‘The Old Man By The Sea’, sounds rather English and very timeless. It was the root of my initial confusion until the line “we took another toke” made me rethink. The old man was begging for quarters and the singer bought a six-pack. Somewhere in the wrong end of New Jersey, perhaps? The song is about hope and the singer sincerely hopes that the old man isn’t a ghost. Now, we could be anywhere – the wrong end of Leith, perhaps? It’s such a clever song.
‘House On A Hill’ and ‘I Will Never Let Go’ are love songs of a sort. The protagonist of the former would seem to be down on his luck in a big way and the singer of the latter is making a declaration of undying fidelity but there are lines in both that can make your interpretations suspect. ‘California’ is not a hymn of praise to the sunshine state and there is a sting in the tail – California may satisfy your dreams “until the ripe of age of 31, then you’re done”. ‘Maybe Next Time’ echoes the restlessness of the opening track paired with an strange sense of optimism and that is repeated in ‘Poison Of The Devil’. ‘Abrasions’ and ‘Falling Star’ are two more love songs riddled with insecurity.
I don’t think that there is a happy song here but maybe John will disagree with that assessment. He calls these songs of love, loss and redemption but that redemption seems a long way off. Perhaps my glass isn’t even half full.
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Artist’s website: www.johnanayamusic.com
‘The Old Man By The Sea’ – live: