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SUMNER ANDERSON - Out Along The Bend

SUMNER ANDERSON - Out Along The Bend
Private Label

This duo was totally new to me, but I felt well disposed toward the debut CD, seeing as it was presented in a most handsome Digipak, with a striking cover photo of ploughed fields, sort of redolent of Mike Oldfield’s use of a photo of Hergest Ridge for his second LP. One knows though that Oldfield’s use made sense, since Hergest Ridge was the title name of his album. Here, the choice of photo is purely aesthetic, unless I am missing something. Fertile soil for a “harvest of songs” perhaps? But that’s pushing it a bit.

Now, preamble over: just who are these two seemingly disparate talents? Well, Anne Sumner grew up in the 80s and 90s in South East England, and was a classically trained piano student, who came to the guitar late, in 2009: realising as she did, what a boon it was to helping her compose her songs. She released her first studio album These Hours in 2015. Rob Anderson has – by contrast - been playing guitar for over 40 years, and is influenced by the music of his American west-coast upbringing, viz., his country folk roots.

And so when these two got together in early 2016, it seemed an unlikely partnership. But just as they say about boxing, “different styles make for the best contests”, so it can often be with two musicians getting together. And trust me, despite having virtually no musical references in common, these two seem joined-at-the-hip musically speaking: it is a sublime exercise in effortless harmony of guitars and voices.

The songs are largely a mix of Rob’s and Anne’s. I note they put their own individual name to them, rather than “Sumner-Anderson” and thus emulating the Fab Four’s use of “Lennon-McCartney”, even though some songs were exclusively John’s work and some Paul’s. So the thought occurs: did I note a detectable difference between Rob and Anne as songwriters? Truth is no, though Anne’s songs have perhaps the finer melodies and Rob the stronger lyric, though in truth it’s a photo finish in both cases.

The best cut? On Solid Ground just shades it from Andy’s Song. Fine vocal harmonies abound: redolent of the late Dave Carter and Tracy Grammer at their best. Not sure though that the songs are top-drawer: they are well-crafted and beautifully performed, but they lack a certain lyrical wit, and a killer melody. But that said, it is a very promising opening album for what could be a long and fruitful partnership.

Dai Woosnam

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This album was reviewed in Issue 118 of The Living Tradition magazine.