Sadler Vaden is a renowned guitarist and producer (he has worked with Drivin’ N Cryin’ and is in Jason Isbell’s band, the 400 Unit); Anybody Out There? is his second solo album. It is expertly self-produced, and particularly memorable due to the tension between the masculine rock riffs and the underlying sensitivity of the lyrics. “Good Man” has a stomping guitar line with Vader proclaiming that he wants the song to “shout”, but in fact the track moves away from the rock clichés of manhood as Vaden declares that “a stand up man tells the truth” and sees “clear water through the clouds/for all our future daughters”.
Anybody Out There? is distinctive for its’ simple, direct approach, and appears to recommend this as a philosophy. The couple in “Be Here, Right Now” hope to sort themselves out by getting away to “tune out all the noise”; Don’t Worry” suggests we put anxiety into perspective by not getting “lost in all the fuss” or stuck on plans as ultimately “things happen, they’re just out of our hands”.
Vaden may be a hippie at heart, and the title of “Peace + Harmony”, a song co-written with Aaron Lee Tasjan, certainly points in that direction; however, this is no folk rock but energising rock and roll, with the Springsteen’ish notion that “we shouldn’t have to live afraid to die”. Similarly the title track, co-written with Audley Freed, rails against apathy with a gnarly guitar riff and virtuoso guitar solo.
“Modern Times” advocates returning back to simpler times when “our imagination was all that we could see”. Vaden’s vocal is suitably dreamy in a wash of Mellotron, and the song is catchy in a downbeat way, set in the underlying gloom of a superficial world where “we live and die by what the world sees/create a whole new existence by the touch of a screen”.
Anybody Out There? is perhaps rightly nervous about the times we’re living in, and therefore finds solace in the retro: “Golden Child” and “Curtain Call” both reference ‘70s rock through the production tone (and in the latter, the lyrical allusion to Pink Floyd’s The Dark Side of the Moon).
What’s also appealing about Anybody Out There? is that Vaden expresses his own clear vision of what rock and roll should be: “Next To You” could be a statement of intent to a lover or, to music itself. “Tried and True”, with its ringing guitar, addresses the problems of working in a medium where “it’s all been done before”, and the risk of feeling “like a broken record, playing all the same rock and roll”. Ultimately Vaden finds redemption in the sound that “keeps him waiting”, and the listener will quickly understand his conviction, as the sound here is pretty damn good.
Label: Dirty Mag Records/Thirty Tigers
Release Date: 06 MAR 2020