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Album Review

Eric Anders & Mark O’Bitz – ‘Answers Belie’ [Album Review]

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Eric Anders & Mark O’Bitz ‘Answers Belie’ album artwork

Produced and mixed by Mike Butler, and mastered by Jamal Ruhe, Answers Belie, the eighth long player from folk-rock duo Eric Anders and Mark O’Bitz, is both lyrically provocative and musically haunting.

The songs on Answers Belie cover a trio of topics: political, philosophical, and sentimental, and convey a sad feeling, an aura of melancholy, as if confronting an impasse, like a wall, around which you can neither advance nor retire nor sidle away.

Musicians on the album comprise Eric Anders (vocals), Mark O’Bitz (acoustic and electric guitar, keys, piano), Mike Butler (bass, lap steel, mandolin, keys), Ben Moore (keys), John O’Reilly Jr. (drums), and Jenn Grinels (backing vocals).

Opening track “Slow Movin’ Nightmare,” as song Anders describes as “a dirge for American democracy,” travels on a mid-tempo rhythm topped by softly strumming guitars and the distant drawling wail of the lap steel. The effect is simultaneously elegiac and hymnary.

Entry points include “Force of Old,” highlighted by a drifting melody drenched in poignant harmonic layers, akin to a lamentation, as Anders’ moving vocals imbue the lyrics with palpable uneasiness. While “Long Ol’ Civil War” pulls Lincoln’s Gettysburg address into the modern world, informing his words with existential weight.

A low-slung, oozing organ decorates the title track with smoldering coloration, almost gospel-like, as Anders’ evocative voice, conjuring up suggestions of Neil Young, infuses the lyrics with tender delicacy, tumescent with inquisitive emotions.

Eric Anders & Mark O’Bitz, photo courtesy of Eric Anders & Mark O’Bitz

Eric Anders & Mark O’Bitz, photo courtesy of Eric Anders & Mark O’Bitz

For some reason, “Eyes, A Child, Bedside” invokes memories of Crosby, Stills & Nash’s “Southern Cross,” probably because of Anders’ deliciously grainy voice. An ode to his maternal grandfather, the song drips with an array of sentiments – love, nostalgia, and grief.

“I Hope Time Will Be Kind,” the last track on the album, is a song about the universal fear of growing old. The melody feels slower than it is because of the carried-on-the-breeze motion of the piano and the gliding rhythmic flow. Anders’ voice, like a prayer of entreaty, expresses his desires for his children even as he deals with the unwavering passage of time.

Although suffused with a sense of gloominess, Answers Belie is ineffably beautiful from the perspective of composition, structure, and vocals.

Answers Belie Track Listing:

1. A Slow Movin’ Nightmare
2. Force of Old
3. Long Ol’ Civil War
4. The Hardest Lesson
5. Answers Belie
6. Eyes, A Child, Bedside
7. I Hope Time Will Be Kind

Run Time: 29:43
Release Date: June 24, 2023
Record Label: Baggage Room Records

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