Andy J. Forest comes at you from all sides. A talented musician, poet and painter, he is one of those people whose life is a non-stop work of art. "Andy is such a force," said Anders Osborne, who has produced Forest's last two albums. "Once he starts playing there's so much energy." Last year Forest bought a house in the Ninth Ward on Piety Street and he's had his hands full renovating the place from stem to stern ever since. His 15th album, "Deep Down Under In the Bywater," is filled with songs about his new home.
Osborne sought to bring out Forest's individuality in the recording." What I like about Andy is the way he writes in a different kind of poetic style, especially with his blues background," said Osborne. "The first time we hooked up he brought me pages and pages of song ideas and lyrics and they were really stories. So the idea came up, 'What if you just read the stuff, not so much as a spoken word thing, but telling the story as you go."
" On '...Bywater,' Anders added a lot to the arrangement," said Forest. "That groove on '...Bywater,' that octave thing, I've been doing that for years, so I decided to write a song to it. I like some of the lines in there. The line about hearing the washboard: "hear the rattle of the washboard beat," that's for Washboard Chaz, who I play with from time to time, he lives down here on Mazant, he's my neighbor."'Fat Chance' was originally a 12 bar blues and Anders said 'Just hang on the one' so he brought some arrangement to it. He kind of pushed the melody into a different direction. "Voodoo Lips" is already one of Forest's most popular live numbers. "When I do that live and I'm selling CDs after the gig people invariably ask 'Which one has "Voodoo Lips?' That's a good sign." 'Weak Point' was another poem. Anders didn't initially want to do it, he didn't think it would fit in. When we were done we still had another hour left in the studio. I said 'C'mon let's do that Weak Point tune, 'cause bassist Jesse Boyd's a jazz guy,' and he said 'OK, but only if I get to play drums.' I knew he used to be a drummer when he was a teenager but I'd never heard him play. He sounded good.
" Anders made up the bass line on 'Levee En Rose.' I wanted an instrumental with a Leslie harp on it. I put a wah wah pedal on there. I just wanted to do something different. On 'Sunday Rhumba' I did an instrumental, a kind of distorted, Jimi Hendrix thing, and a lot of people commented on it, WWOZ played it a lot, so I figured I'd do an instrumental on this album.
"Anders completely changed 'All I Need,' It had a different melody, different groove. He said 'Let's do it Mississippi John Hurt style'."
The entire album was a Ninth Ward project. The tracks were recorded at The Truck Farm. "A couple of people from Kingsway opened up this house right up on St. Claude just about three blocks away from us. Andrew Gilchrist engineered and mixed it over there along with Anders, and John Fishbach mastered and edited it right down the block at Piety Street Recording.
-- JOHN SWENSON
OffBeat Blues columnist