John Anderson portrait
Alysse Gafkjen

‘Something Borrowed, Something New’: Artists Speak On The Influence, Legacy of John Anderson


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"Seminole Wind," "Straight Tequila Night," "Swingin'"-- whether we're aware of it or not, John Anderson's music has been a soundtrack to most all of our lives. The Florida-born artist was a mainstay in country music circles in the '80s and '90s and has been a massive influence on today's generation of country musicians, several of whom teamed up with producer Dan Auerbach to record Something Borrowed, Something New: A Tribute To John Anderson.

Available now via Easy Eye Sound, the compilation includes a baker's dozen of Anderson's biggest hits performed by Luke Combs, Sierra Ferrell, Ashley McBryde, John Prine, Sturgill Simpson, Brothers Osborne, Del McCoury, Eric Church, Tyler Childers and other stars of today. The project features cuts from all phases of his 40 year career from 1979's self-titled debut ("Shoot Low Sheriff!," ''Low Dog Blues," ''1959") to 2020's Years ("Years") and were all recorded in-person in Nashville in 2020 and 2021. 

According to Anderson, he finds joy in the timeless nature of his music and how today's musicians that were once influenced by it are now molding and making it their own.

"Listening to everybody do their own takes on the songs shows how the songs really come through. And I thought to myself, 'You might have been young and foolish back then, but you sure did pick some good songs,'" said Anderson in a press release. "It's very gratifying to know that some things really do not change, and a great country song remains a great country song. Any one person on the record would be a real tribute, but all of them together? It's a pretty big deal for me personally." 

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Among the artists singing Anderson's praises on the record is master mandolinist Sierra Hull, who joins bluegrass legend Del McCoury on the album for a rendition of the Bobby Braddock penned 1981 hit "Would You Catch A Falling Star." The tongue-in-cheek story about the realities of stardom is transformed by McCoury and Hull from a borderline country waltz to a bluegrass medley fueled by Hull's fluttering mandolin and high and lonesome harmonies. 

"It is a real honor to celebrate John's music alongside my hero and dear friend, Del McCoury, on this tribute album," Hull tells Wide Open Country. "Del in so many ways embodies that same kind of genuine sound and authenticity that John does in his music. This album is stacked with some amazing artists that I love and I'm really grateful to be a small part of it!"

According to the 30-year-old Hull, she doesn't recall where she first discovered Anderson's music, but remembers his distinct style and sound sticking with her once she did. A lifelong Tennessean, Hull says that she's found comfort in Anderson's music and the stories he tells because he sounds similar to people she grew up around, adding that his music serves as a reminder of the kind of purity, unfiltered sound and emotion that she would like to bring to her own music.

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"It's amazing when an artist has a sound that is so uniquely their own," says Hull. "John has a voice that is instantly recognizable. How amazing it must be to have that kind of influence on a whole generation of musicians that followed as well."

On Aug. 6 Hull helped to celebrate Anderson and the release of Something Borrowed, Something New during a tribute to the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame inductee that also included David Rawlings and Gillian Welch, Elizabeth Cook, Tyler Childers, Dan Auerbach, Marcus King and Anderson himself. During the show Hull performed "Would You Catch A Falling Star" sans McCoury along with "Down In Tennessee," one of his 60 charting singles that didn't make it onto the tribute album. However, Hull says that her love for Anderson and his music runs far deeper than just those two songs.

"Like so many folks 'Seminole Wind' is the one I remember hearing first and being mesmerized by," says Hull. "I also love his version of [Billy Joe Shaver's] 'Just An Old Chunk Of Coal (But I'm Gonna Be A Diamond Someday)' and [John Scott Sherrill's] 'Wild And Blue'... 'Bend It Till It Breaks' is another one that stands out. As someone who grew up in Bluegrass music, I love the tasteful use of fiddle and banjo in his music as well. His catalog is so big I feel like I still have lots left to explore, and that's exciting."

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Another artist who wouldn't be the same without the music of John Anderson is Georgia native Brent Cobb, who recorded "Wild And Blue" for the project. According to Cobb, "Wild And Blue" is a song he grew up loving and was one he studied intensely during his late teen years when he was first getting into songwriting, making it all the more special to be able to put his own spin on it for this tribute.

However, Cobb says he was first turned onto Anderson's music years prior through his father's band covering "1959" and other Anderson songs. Among his favorites other than "Wild And Blue" are "Black Sheep" and "Seminole Wind," the latter hitting especially close to home.

"A bunch of my family grew up about a half hour from me in Georgia along Seminole Road," says Cobb. "When 'Seminole Wind' came out in the early 90's it felt very personal to me since we always traveled up Seminole Road to visit them on the weekends. I remember every time we rode up there after that we'd start singing 'Blow, blow Seminole Road' as we approached their house."

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Much like his family first informed him of Anderson's music, Cobb says that Anderson's catalog has informed almost every facet of his own songwriting and artistic approach. Much like Hull, he says that one of the biggest draws to Anderson's music is his casual and approachable demeanor that sounds like family or someone he would've grown up around.

"I think that's what draws people in. He just sounds like somebody you can count on," says Cobb. "His writing is rural, but it's also very poetic. I remember being captivated by the vivid nature of his storytelling ever since I first heard his music."

With Something Borrowed, Something New there's no doubt that Anderson's music remains as timeless and relevant as ever. It also serves as a reminder to appreciate and honor your heroes while they're still around rather than waiting until they've perished. John Prine's posthumous inclusion on the record is proof of that as is Anderson himself, who in 2017 suffered several setbacks with his health that temporarily resulted in hearing loss, potentially sidelining his career forever.

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He went on to release Years in 2020 on Auerbach's Easy Eye Sound, setting the stage for last Friday's tribute record release on the same label. His miraculous recovery is one that Cobb hopes fans don't take for granted.

"John Anderson is a living legend and it's a blessing that he's still among us," says Cobb. "With him back to playing shows I suggest anyone wanting to get out to see him as soon as possible because one day he'll be gone like Merle Haggard or John Prine and we won't have the privilege of seeing him again. He sounds as good now as he did back in the day, it's insane."

Auerbach agrees, saying in a press release "I want people to first love it for what it is: a great record. Then I want them to go investigate John and listen to his records. And, honestly, I want to see John in the Country Music Hall of Fame, too. That would be good for country music."

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Indeed it would Dan. Indeed it would.

SOMETHING BORROWED, SOMETHING NEW: A TRIBUTE TO JOHN ANDERSON TRACK LIST

  1. "1959" performed by John Prine
  2. "Years" performed by Sierra Ferrell
  3. "Wild and Blue" performed by Brent Cobb
  4. "Low Dog Blues" performed by Nathaniel Rateliff
  5. "Mississippi Moon" performed by Eric Church
  6. "I Just Came Home to Count the Memories" performed by Gillian Welch & David Rawlings
  7. "Shoot Low Sheriff!" performed by Tyler Childers
  8. "Seminole Wind" performed by Luke Combs
  9. "When It Comes to You" performed by Sturgill Simpson
  10. "You Can't Judge a Book (By the Cover)" performed by Brothers Osborne
  11. "Would You Catch a Falling Star" performed by Del McCoury feat. Sierra Hull
  12. "Straight Tequila Night" performed by Ashley McBryde
  13. "I'm Just an Old Chunk of Coal (But I'm Gonna Be a Diamond Some Day)" performed by Jamey Johnson

READ MORE: High, Lonesome and Liberating: The Trailblazing Legacy Of Hazel Dickens

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