Guitarist Pete Anderson pulls some strings at the Moose

When guitarist Pete Anderson straps on his ax, it's a loaded, calm-before-the-storm moment. When he gets down to business, conjuring an eruptive musical cascade of flawless technique, seductive understatement and indigo-hued atmosphere, it's a transportive, exhilarating blast off into an artistic stratosphere very few others players can reach.

The longtime Glendale resident, renowned as both a guitarist and as the Grammy-winning producer whose decade-plus collaboration with country star Dwight Yoakam resulted in sales of more than 25 million albums, is a world-class talent and demanding perfectionist of the highest order. Nonetheless, Anderson and his outstanding three-piece band perform every Monday at Burbank Moose Lodge, a humble, neon-lit hotspot with no age limit, no cover and, now, one of the finest blues parties running anywhere.

“I've been at the Moose maybe 2 1/2 years, in between touring and doing different things.” Anderson said. “It's a free rehearsal, with an audience, and of course, it's a ‘Blue Monday,’ so it's a great time to play. There's always a few more tunes I need to work out with the band, so I take 'em into the Moose. It's not just a test run — it really welds the songs into your DNA.”

Though best known for most of his career as a groundbreaking country music force (aside from Yoakam he's also produced country-Americana luminaries Lucinda Williams, Sara Evans, Jim Lauderdale, Michelle Shocked and Rosie Flores), the Detroit-born Anderson has always had a blues head, a musical romance that assumed soul-deep primacy after the youth attended the first Ann Arbor Blues Festival and experienced the raw power of blues titans Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf, BB King, T-Bone Walker and Lightnin' Hopkins.

After he relocated to California in the mid-1970s, Anderson worked the honky-tonks, where his style was further influenced by California country guitar giants Don Rich and Roy Nichols. Melding all these together, Anderson developed a stupefying prowess, one centered around what he calls “The 3 Ts.”

“The 3 Ts in music are tone, time and taste,” Anderson explained. “I mean, let's say you're listening to [legendary blues slide-guitarist] Elmore James — it’s a very simple sound; the style is simple, the tuning is simple, but to play just like him is almost impossible, and it's because of tone, time and taste. The tone comes from your ear and the pressure on the strings that creates that sound.

“Time is where you place the notes and you can't write that out — it's not a rigid form — but you can place them where you need to. And taste is a matter of expression — what do I say, what do I play? The Ts are what make a player. If it was an Olympic event about precision music, it'd be a lot more boring, but blues and jazz, our American culutural music, you can't have it taught to you. You have to absorb it.”

At the Moose, Anderson's rich, communicative playing is always arresting, and while he generally sticks to a set of songs slated for release on a forthcoming album, he never performs them the same way twice. This dazzling, ever-shifting approach, taken with his depth of personal involvement and impeccable style, always guarantees both musical entertainment of the highest order and a fascinating glimpse into the creative process.

“I practice at my studio on Sunday and then go to the Moose and play to an audience,” Anderson said. “Even if it's only three people, you're playing live, there's pride, you can't goof it up. You find your weaknesses and strengths. It’s a really important tool for me. It's like being a blacksmith — you've got to heat the songs up, bang on them, reshape them, bend them to your will and beat them into submission.”

JONNY WHITESIDE is a veteran music journalist based in Burbank and author of “Ramblin' Rose: the Life & Career of Rose Maddox” and “Cry: the Johnnie Ray Story.”


Pete Anderson appears every Monday, 8-10 p.m. at Burbank Moose Lodge's Club 652, 1901 W. Burbank Blvd., (818) 842-5851

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