CD Review: Drive, by Doug Anderson

Drive

After a Dove award-winning solo debut, plus another table project, EHSS baritone Doug Anderson is back to treat his fans with a collection of all-new songs. The better part of them are contributed by Wayne Haun and/or Joel Lindsey, and predictably these are among the best songs on the album. As per usual, click on to read my thoughts in candid Likes/Dislikes format.

Likes

* First of all, awesome cover. That’s one sweet car.

* Album best cut “Yes I Will” (was I saying something about Haun and Lindsey?) is an absolutely delicious, slow-burning gospel anthem. Anderson lets his soul chops shine as the choir and B-3 Hammond simmer in the background.

* “Love With Open Arms” pleasantly recalls some of Steven Curtis Chapman’s lighter, radio-friendly fare. Nothing too deep, but a smartly crafted chorus and a fresh banjo hook draw the listener in.

* The melody on “Moment By Moment Grace” is quite pretty, especially the chorus.

* “Love Covered My Sin” is the most traditional-sounding country/gospel track, sounding like something Barry Rowland & Deliverance might cover.

* The entire EHSS gang backs Doug up on a groovy cover of Dolly Parton’s “The Seeker.” Even on my first skim through the project, when I wasn’t listening that carefully to the tracks, this one caught and held my attention. And of course, I’d rather hear Doug sing it than Dolly any day!

* Haun and Lindsey’s “I’ll Be There With You” may lack the vivid urgency of “I Will Find You Again,” “Celebrate Me Home,” or “Sometimes I Wonder,” but it’s a solid heaven ballad. (Hey, cut the guys a little slack—we can’t expect great writers to top themselves on every contribution to a stock topic.)

* Joel Lindsey’s “How ‘Bout You” closes the album on a surprisingly sad, dark note. Which is great. (I know, I’m like the little kid in The Princess Bride: “Murdered by pirates is good!”) Anyway, the sweet melody belies the pain in the lyrics, about a man who’s lost his wife and is battling alcoholism. [Edit: Thanks to Joel Lindsey for clarifying that the “shattered glass” in Verse One is actually just water, not alcohol. Thanks also for sharing the personal story behind this song! Originally, it was about Joel’s loss of his mother. However, I think many people could take the song to heart as they deal with the loss of their own loved ones.] It’s not entirely clear whether he lost her through death or divorce. The line “I talk on the phone, try not to be alone” might hint at the latter, but either interpretation could work. It made me wonder how a rougher, more world-weary voice than Doug’s would interpret it.

I saw my family last night for dinner

They all said I look just fine, a little thinner

I smiled ‘cuz I didn’t know what else to do

Me, I’m doing fine

Me, I just need time

Me, I’m doing fine

How ’bout you?

Dislikes

* If “Love With Open Arms” reminded me why I liked CCM radio, “God Works” reminded me why I started switching channels. The melody feels like it’s trapped within a four-note range (probably because it is), the lyrics are cliched, and Doug’s voice isn’t given room to breathe. Explore the space, people! I could hardly believe this one had a co-credit from Tony Wood. This is me giving Tony the icy stare.

* “I Need You More” has a good hook, but the second verse spoils it with the line that God “needs me.” Of course, the intent is to show with the chorus that we need God more, but it’s already mistaken to state that God “needs” us at all. Sorry everyone, but I’m pretty sure the Trinity was doing all right without us. God chose to create us because he wanted to, he sent Jesus to die for us because he wanted to, and he uses us to do His will because he wants to. He could just as well have not created us, allowed us to self-destruct in our sin, or used some other person to do His will. This whole idea that God “needs” or “can’t live without” us is common, but it’s a misleading picture of God.

* “Sundays Are Made For These” was already practically a solo vehicle for Doug on Dream On. The song is fine, but did we need another version filling a slot that could have made room for something fresh?

* There’s some sloppy grammar on the first line of “I’ll Be There With You” (“There were many uphill struggles I thought I couldn’t climb”). This makes “struggles” the object of “climb,” but one doesn’t climb a struggle. One climbs a hill, or walks through a struggle. The writers need to make up their minds. 

Bottom line: Fans of Doug’s first album will get exactly what they are expecting out of this album: a fun blend of upbeat country, traditional gospel and contemporary tracks. Many of the songs fill similar slots to the songs on that project (compare “The Seeker” with “Only Here for a Little While,” “Sundays Are Made” with “Dreamin’ Wide Awake,” and so forth). In many ways, this is a very good thing. Doug’s voice is as versatile and ageless as ever. You’re guaranteed at least several very memorable songs. You’re certainly guaranteed a very polished production. At the same time, it doesn’t break much new ground. Then again, perhaps it didn’t need to.

Prime cuts: “Yes I Will,” “The Seeker,” “How ‘Bout You”

Album rating: 4 stars

Review copy provided. A positive review was not required.

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12 Comments

Filed under 4 star, CD Reviews

12 responses to “CD Review: Drive, by Doug Anderson

  1. Enjoying this project more than Doug’s first solo record. Really enjoying “The Seeker”. Doug fits it like a glove, “Love Covered My Sin” nearly had me in tears plus the goosebumps, hopefully our trio will cover that one. Great review!

    • Thanks Phil! I know, Steve was like “There’s too many covers of this song already, blah-blah-blah,” but I wasn’t even familiar with the song until I heard Doug’s cover of it (I know a lot more about the history of pop/rock than country). Perspective can make a big difference. :)

  2. Arguably one of the finest singers of his generation. :)

  3. John Situmbeko

    I had an interesting discussion about God needing us with some friends. Which brought to mind this nice review. One friend who has children said, “its more than a want, He LOVES us.” He then gave an example of how parents love their children. If loving parents were to be asked if they need their children or want them, most would say they need them, because “want” seems insufficient to describe how they feel. Need goes overboard, but is closer.

    That made me think. We are His children and He wants us, but His want for us is so great that it closely resembles need. So, speaking in basic human relationship language, when one says to his children or to his spouse, “I need you in my life,” or “I can’t live without you,” that’s meant to express the high level of want for his loved ones.

    I therefore think in the song “I Need You More” spoken of here, when understood as spoken in human relationship language, is alright. Now I’ve not yet heard the song, but still I think the human relationship language is more appropriate than how others (Jamie Grace) decide to use it.

  4. Joel Lindsey

    A friend pointed me to this review and the curiosity is getting the best of me — what in the lyric of “How ‘Bout You” brings you to the conclusion that it has anything to do with alcoholism? The glass dropping on the floor, maybe? You’ve got me stumped!

    • Hi there! Thanks for stopping by. I just listened to the song again (still love it), and I believe yes, that was the line that led me to that conclusion. It seemed to me like the character was partly coping with his loss by trying to “drown his sorrows,” as it were. But since that’s the only line, perhaps it was a hasty conclusion. I didn’t mean to imply that alcoholism was the main focus. Certainly different from a song like “Little Rock.”

    • Hey, while I’ve got you here though, I have to ask, was this song inspired by anyone or anything particular? It sounds very personal.

  5. Joel Lindsey

    The song is an extremely personal one for mel – written about the death of my Mom (like quite a few of my songs.) Every single line of this song played out exactly the way it was written, which is why I was so confused by the alcoholism reference. (It was just a water glass, by the way. :)

    • Aaaaah, got it. I actually didn’t think it was literally about you at first. So, that was unintentional. I didn’t think you were an alcoholic or something. ;-) What I love about the song though is that even though it was a deeply personal story, you were able to make the lyric universal enough that a lot of people could read their own losses into it.

    • Saved Girl

      Oh good, I’m glad you made that clarification. I’d been meaning to post a comment on here about it. I didn’t catch any reference to alcoholism in the song, so I was confused about that myself. :D

      Just to clarify, though, I was wondering. In the ‘how bout you?’ line that is repeated in the song, is the ‘you’ the person who has died? I’m having a little trouble figuring that out.

      It is a beautiful song. Thank you for writing it.

      • Yep, it was the shattered glass. I think I’m used to connecting glasses and sadness in country songs with alcoholism, hence the leap. ;-) Regarding your other question, I would guess that yes, the man is talking to his deceased loved one, since the rest of the song is 2nd person.

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