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 Hartford.

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 love.

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. Andersen’s 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. It’s 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” it’s just Andersen’s 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 Dean’s precisely placed harmonies, woven with fiddle, guitar and a steady bass line.

Andersen’s 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…the 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." You’ll 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 isn’t 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 didn’t 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 "Who’s 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 that’s all.

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, Maine’s 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 won’t be a problem.

If you liked Andersen’s 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 near future.

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