Reviews of Joyce Andersen's "Right Where I Should Be"
Jam Music Magazine, March 3, 2003
by Kris Garnjost
Oh Brother! Oh Sister! Where art thou? You are here! Call it Americana. Call
it roots music. Call it whatever you want, but if you are even remotely steeped
in tradition, then stay right here and listen to me.
Joyce Andersen has it all. She has a beautiful, powerful, expressive voice.
She plays an emotional fiddle and a moving guitar. And she can write songs that
feel like they could fit in a variety of traditional styles but speak with contemporary
freshness about universal ideas. I am hard pressed to liken this independent
and multi-talented woman to anyone, but there are similarities to her sometimes
mentor, Harvey Reid. Reid may spend more time in traditional music. Andersen
seems even more personal and more eclectic (if that is possible) than Reid,
and because of this she reminds me of one of my all-time unique favorites, John
She may not have Hartford's cock-eyed sense of humor, but all of her music,
whether it's simple or complex, moving or playful, touches you in some way.
It is hard to know which songs on "Right Where I Should Be" stand
above the rest. They range from the traditional story song "Pretty Sylvia,"
and the contemporary country folk of "I Just Wanna Dance" to the swing
jazz fun of "The Whole World Is Doin' It" and the stark minimalism
of "Love Finds A Way"
Every time I listen to "Strange Elation," I am struck by the haunting
sawing fiddle and the ethereal quality of Andersen's voice. The lyrics are haunting
and moving as well. They speak of the experience of creating and the closeness
of joy and sorrow in the process. Another of my favorites is the contemporary
pop sound of "Eve." She uses Eve and the fall from the Garden of Eden
to express the importance of emotions and feelings in the defining of true lasting
I also love the simple gospel joy of "I'm Ready." Andersen's voice and fiddle rise and dance and sing together on this deliberate, old-style, song. It has one foot in a stark Appalachican church and the oher in an Afro-American gospel choir. If I was left to pick only one song I could listen to on this album, I guess it would be "There He Goes Coming Back." It is, in my mind, a perfect country song. It is a quiet, simple tune that expresses the struggle of imperfect love. It has a wonderful combination of Andersen's crying fiddle and producer Tom Dean's delicate acoustic guitar. He also provides some great harmony with Andersen's strong honest voice. Finally it has one of the best country lyrics I have ever heard, "There he goes, coming back again."
Face Magazine, The Maine Arts and Entertainment Menu, January 2003
by Dale Robin Lockman, West Kennebunk, ME
It is said that the instrument with the sound and power closest to that of
the human voice is the fiddle. This being true, singer, songwriter and fiddler
Joyce Andersen has the most powerful combination of sounds. Her new release,
Right Where I Should Be, is proof of that power. Her clear strong voice, and
that of the fiddle are an effective combination which brings remarkable beauty
and potency to both the original and traditional tunes.
Andersen, a New Hampshire native and a York, ME resident, is gaining well-deserved popularity and notoriety on the national touring circuit of acoustic artists. Her first release, The Girl I Left Behind, received critical acclaim and national radio airplay. Right Where I Should Be is certainly destined for the same fate, and more so her growing confidence and ability as a recording artist is clearly present.
This recording is a courageous move for Andersen, known for her acoustic and
traditionally-influenced music. The tasteful addition of electric guitars, bass
and drums adds a contemporary dynamic to several of the cuts. Calling on veteran
sidemen Duke Levine and Zev Katz as partners in crime was a brilliant
strategy. Their virtuosity adds just the right touch of fullness and energy
to the sound. Andersens vocals are just as impressive in this up-to-date
sound as they are in the more roots-based cuts.
Often combining fiddle double stops with her singing, Andersen produces a harmonizing
quality that is more austere than voices singing harmony. Its reminiscent
of the traditional singers of the Appalachians and Ozarks, but Andersen brings
it into the present with her original lyrics.
An excellent example of this is in the song Strange Elation an Andersen original. The guitars of Tom Dean and David Surette give a subtly modern and even celtic influence to the traditional American sensibility of this tune. A contradiction of styles? Perhaps, but they blend cleverly into a song that is clearly new, but evokes an old-time feel.
In Love Finds a Way its just Andersens vocal with a
pizzicato violin. A stark sound that meshes perfectly with the lyrics which
tell a quietly hopeful love story. An instrumental piece Strangers No
More, with Peter Barnes on piano and Andersen playing a fiddle that invokes
her classical training, is a graceful and engaging work.
There He Goes Coming Back is exquisitely written in the classic
country tradition, and executed with a wonderful simplicity, with Tom Deans
precisely placed harmonies, woven with fiddle, guitar and a steady bass line.
Andersens songwriting is remarkable for its treatment of stories and
situations especially from the feminine point of view. They are poignant without
being full of preachiness or complaint. Rather they simply describe
emotion comes from the listener
the songs require you to meet them halfway,
and the artful blending of sounds makes that an easy and irresistible thing
to do. A powerful songwriting trick that Andersen has surely mastered.
Right Where I Should Be is an impressive sophomore solo recording for this talented young woman. One of the great things about it is that it is probably also the harbinger of yet more extraordinary work to come from Joyce Andersen.
Portsmouth Herald Spotlight Magazine, January 30, 2003 Portsmouth NH
by Chuck Ginsberg
Fiddler, singer/songwriter Joyce Andersen has released her second solo album, "Right Where I Should Be." Youll love it the first time; then it grows on you.
Andersen crams 11 original songs, an original fiddle instrumental, and two
traditional songs into more than 50 minutes of edgy, thoughtful, often haunting
melody and lyric.
The confident artist isnt afraid to take risks. She spent a day in the
Big Apple, guitar and voice at the ready, recording most of the album with what
she describes as "A Team New York City session cats," although one
actually hails from Boston.
Singing, making like a bandleader, and playing guitar (instead of the more
comfortable fiddle) with top session musicians for the first time, left her
without any comfort zone. But it works, as does every note on the album. "It
was nice to take that leap of faith and not fall flat on my face.
"I was paying a lot of money for it. I had to get it right and I wanted to get the tapes live. I didnt want to overdub. I felt like I had to rise to the occasion."
The words tumble out excitedly.
As a result, the album has a feel of immediacy that beautifully complements
the talent levels and the coherence of her selections and the sound, even when
she adds electric guitars to the recipe.
A thread of the virtues of individual emancipation runs throughout, not so
much a feminist statement but a realization that an individual must move out
and move on in life. If the songs seem directed toward women, Andersen is, after
all, one of them kind of people.
From "Strange Elation, to "Saddle Up the Storm," to "Eve,"
through the traditional tunes, like "Whos Gonna Shoe Your Pretty
Little Foot" and "Pretty Sylvia," and the penultimate cut, "There
He Goes Coming Back," the message never wavers in the context of a country
tinged lament, a waltz, a ballad, a traditional tune or whatever. "Strangers
No More," the fiddle instrumental with piano accompaniment, is just gut-wrenching
The only departure, musically and thematically, is on the final cut, "The
Whole World Is Doin It." Andersen felt the album needed to lighten
up so she included this "nod to her swingier side."
Even here, the sparse production values and the superb mixing job of co-producer
Tom Dean are right in step.
"Right Where I Should Be" is the next rung in the growth of York, Maines Joyce Andersen from classical violinist, to fiddler to "sidegal" to soloist, to nationally known singer/songwriter. That day is close at hand. She lacks only the exposure before she will have life-altering decisions to make. She demurs, with Harvey Reid as her role model, that wont be a problem.
If you liked Andersens solo debut, "The Girl I Left Behind"
(2001), run, do not walk to the Unitarian Church in Portsmouth on Feb. 2. These
first Joyce Andersen CDs are going to be collectors items in the very