Ian A Anderson – Onwards Vol 2 – A Crown of Crows

Album Review | Ghosts From the Basement | Review by Allan Wilkinson | Stars: 4/5

One of the big surprises over the last six months of abject social misery, was to become a fan of Ian A Anderson’s music.  I’ve read numerous articles and editorials by Ian over the years, met him on a couple of occasions, bumped into him at festivals, contributed just the one review for his late lamented magazine, but never really got to see him with a guitar in his hands.  Onwards! Vol 2 – A Crown of Crows is Ian’s second retrospective, which follows Onwards! Vol. 1, subtitled 50 years of deathfolk, blues, psych-fi, trad and world twang, and features a further 21 selections from half a century of sporadic music making in various combos. 

The great thing about samplers, collections, best ofs and in this case, career retrospectives, is the variety of sounds on offer, which weave and wander through fifty years of changing influences and keen musical investigation.  “Another Normal Day” is Anderson at his solo best, similar to label mate Steve Tilston’s early recordings, a youthful voice and informed guitar accompaniment that communicates universally.  The double photo on the back of the sleeve shows a then and now Ian A Anderson in similar troubadour pose, where I can imagine all those in between Andersons, as I listen to these varied songs.  There’s the manic jug band harmonica blues of “Stereo Death Breakdown” from 1968, a mid-eighties electric slide featured on “City Jail Blues”, a pretty faithful reading of Mississippi Fred McDonald’s “Write Me a Few of Your Lines” from a 1980 Hot Vulture’s radio session, a rather lilting Depression-era take on Hezekiah Jenkins’ “The Panic is On” and for the first time on CD, a fine performance of the Napoleonic ballad “The Bonny Light Horseman”, once again demonstrating an eclectic repertoire.  The most recent recording is “(The Return of) The Western Wind”, recorded recently in Bristol complete with a black crow coda and like that crow, delivered in a voice that appears not have changed in over fifty years.    

Choice Track: Write Me a Few of Your Lines (NSV 509)