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Sumner Anderson Sumner Anderson
Album: Out Along The Bend
Label: Self Released
Tracks: 8

Sumner Anderson is a comparatively new duo on the scene; it comprises songwriter Anne Sumner (whose own album These Hours I reviewed here last autumn) and accomplished country-folk musician Rob Anderson; on paper, two performers with no musical reference points in common. Incredibly, it was only early last year that they got together in musical partnership – when they bumped into each other, neither of them expected it to go beyond a couple of good-natured song-trading sessions, but it would seem that they found each other’s styles so simpatico and compatible that further collaboration was inevitable. In joining forces, Anne and Rob were creating something new, and this record swiftly resulted.

There’s a lovely homegrown live-in-your-living-room vibe to this record, befitting that of two performers thoroughly comfortable in each other’s company and content to make beautiful music together without fear of clashing. The quality of their songwriting is classic; Solid Ground is very probably the standout, and it easily justifies its leisurely six-minute timespan. This is closely followed by Anywhere With You, which might have come from the pen of Sandy Denny circa Old Fashioned Waltz, for instance. The melodies of these songs might not always be solid-gold immediate, but make their impact over time and acquaintance and are worth getting to know (I could imagine almost any of them receiving good cover from duos like Cathryn Craig and Brian Willoughby). If I were pushed, I’d say I marginally prefer Anne’s writing to Rob’s, but although the eight songs are individually credited there’s less than you might think that betrays one or other as the specific author. As well as four songs from Anne and three from Rob, the disc includes a composition by Wayne Drury, AnnaLee, which has something of the close-knit feel of Gillian Welch and David Rawlings and fits in very well alongside the duo’s own writing. Anne and Rob prove absolutely natural musical partners, and their striking vocal togetherness is as integrally complementary as it is harmonious. If their guitar accompaniment can sometimes feel a touch plain (and I won’t invoke unnecessary comparisons!), well that’s not necessarily a drawback, for a more exotic instrumental clothing would IMHO generally not work to the songs’ advantage.

Out Along The Bend is just a sample of what Anne and Rob have uncovered so far in the keen collaboration between their respective musics, and hopefully it’s just the beginning of an intensely rewarding musical partnership.

David Kidman