By Rosa Redoz

Eric Anderson current“It’s Tuesday evening in Watford, think about it.” said Eric Andersen, sounding as surprised as we were to be in a Victorian pub on a fine April evening, being serenaded by Albert Camus’ centenary composer.

Accompanied by the stunning Michele Gazich on violin, Andersen performed a wonderful 10 song set including his Bob Dylan recorded Thirsty Boots and the divine ballad Violets of Dawn.

Even the sound check, after a brief but rocking few songs from the great Ben Reel Band, silenced the Newcastle Brown Ale swilling clientele. There was a power and grace in Andersen’s delivery that promised us a special set.

Opening with Dusty Boxcar Wall with Andersen on acoustic and the whooping syncopation of Gazich on violin he went on to the country rock and rhythm of Dance Of Love And Death. The vivacity of the lyrics were balanced by the elegant flights of fantasy of the violin runs.

His hit song, Violets of Dawn sounded like an old Irish love lament. To misquote Plato ‘we recognise rather than discover what we love’. Even songs that were new to me felt like I’d always known them. The imagery of this songpoet’s words are worthy of the pastoral musings of Keats or Clare.

Before the flashing cloaks of darkness gone

Come see the no colors fade blazing

Into petal sprays of violets of dawn

His voice is strong and tuneful and Michele Gazich’s fills were generous. They are a lovely team.

Andersen mused on the vivid red moon of the previous night which led to the melancholy Wind and Sand.

Rain and wood and fire and stone

magic all across the land

Seasons come and times will go

right through your hand,

like wind and sand

Played on the keyboard, embellished with fine fiddle trills, this mortality lullaby transfixed the audience.

The song ended to the beat of silence that greets a great performance when the audience hears what is not; when art ends.

Eric Anderson

Blue River then gave us an uplifting spiritual lilt.

Blue River keep right on rollin

All along the shore line

Keep us safe from the deep and the dark

Cause we don't want to stray too far

Accompanied by the Stephan Grappelli-like soaring octaves of Michele Gazich; an Italian poet and musician who brought a vivid Mediterranean spirit of life to the set.

The gospel chords took us down to the Mississippi.

“Is everyone okay?” Andersen asked.

We were.

The mood was then brought up and down by the next Blues.

Blues at my window cut a shadow across my path

My mind it feels so heavy, my shoes are made out of lead.

We rocked along with the blues picking and the pizzicato plucking of the violin.

Michele Gazich

Alone at the keyboard, Michele Gazich then performed: “a short song because life is short…………it’s about drunks who die at the right time.”

A klezmer groove contrasted with a nursery rhyme tune, reminiscent of Brecht or Weill.

‘the same old life like a pillow.’

A bit of wry humour to contrast with the ensuing high emotion.

Andersen told us they had travelled by ferry and car that day from the North of Ireland. Through Paris and Portugal the previous week. Distances which are modest in American terms but on congested and narrow European roads, arduous. Fortunately for America he will be there soon.

The maudlin and beautiful Salt on your Skin was next:

I been so many places where do I begin

Soon as it’s over it starts up again

All I remember of you as the memory grows thin

Are the tears in the dark and the salt………..on your skin.

And his heartfelt thanks to the discreet audience’s warm response before the soaring power of Thirsty Boots.

Eric Andersen - Thirsty Boots

His young old voice sailing into powerful harmonica and off we flew.

You've long been on the open road you've been sleepin' in the rain

From dirty words and muddy cells your clothes are soiled and stained

But the dirty words and the muddy cells will soon be judged insane

So only stop and rest yourself and you'll be off again

Oh take off your thirsty boots and stay for awhile

Your feet are hot and weary from a dusty mile

And maybe I can make you laugh and maybe I can try

Lookin' for the evenin' and the mornin' in your eyes

Then tell me of the ones you saw as far as you could see

Across the plains from field to town marchin' to be free

And of the rusted prison gates that tumble by degree

Like laughing children one by one they look like you and me

We applauded, knowing we’d been lucky to catch this great concert in such an unlikely setting; a beery friendly old pub in an English town centre.

As Eric Andersen said; “It’s a Tuesday evening in Watford, think about it.”

Eric Andersen will be at McCabe’s in Santa Monica on Saturday evening, June 7 at 7:30pm, 2014.

FolkWorks British correspondent Rosa Redoz may be reached at Rosa teaches Shakespeare to lucky students in Hertfordshire, near London.