Vol.2 Medicine Show Man
Release Date: January 21st, 1962
Words by: Roland Ellis
January 8th, 2012
Plain old pastoral blues is what it's all about here. Pink Anderson's 'Vol 2. Medicine Show Man' sees travelin' folk fused with traditional blues in order to tell simple stories about lower class life in the southern United States and yep that's pretty much it. Relentlessly circular blues patterns. Twee, surface scratching lyrics. One guitar and one vocal and one unwaveringly steady dynamic.
Light hearted blues might be paradoxical, but that's how this record could perhaps best be described. 'Greasy Greens' and 'South Forest Boogie' being the most obvious example of dealing with light weight everything from subject matter to straight out of the text book major blues chord progressions. However, even on tracks like 'I'm Going To Walk Through The Streets Of The City', which finds Anderson at his best and most introspective, there is still a noticeable detachment between him and the deeply affected lyrics he is delivering. As such it's difficult for the listener to hear this as a track on a level above the tidal wave of middling blues records from the era.
This is a really difficult album to feel any kind of connection with in this writer's opinion. There's a consistent sameness/blandness to these tunes which is largely created by Anderson's monotonic and uncharismatic vocal, and his one speed guitar playing. To put it most simply – even though Pink Anderson wrote most of these songs, this record feels like a rehashing of blues/folk traditionals that have been passed down from gen to gen before landing in Pink's hands and subsequently being churned out on wax without much personal connection and/or depth.
This is not to suggest that Anderson didn't feel or experience all the things he sings about here, it is instead meaning to raise questions regarding his powers of conveyance, and moreover about what we as listeners' need to hear from blues artists in order to feel a connection with the simple form that is blues music. The answer can perhaps be found in comparing Pink Anderson to other bluesman like, Howlin' Wolf. It is too simplistic to say – "I don't relate to the lyric cause I wasn't there and ain't ever spent no time in a jailhouse" etc. But what is not too simplistic is to gauge a connection to music based on the perceived feeling behind the words. For example, we know what Howlin' Wolf is singing about in 'Spoonful' in the same way we know what Pink Anderson is on about in 'Travelin' Man'. However the reason that Wolf's track is a classic as opposed to Anderson's is because in 'Spoonful' the listener can feel the unique spirit of the man and the weight of his personality resonating behind the straightforward lyric, and simple melody and instrumentation.
Although his name will be forever remembered as half the reason (the other half beingFloyd Council) behind Syd Barrett's decision to call his band Pink Floyd, Pink Anderson's 'Vol 2. Medicine Show Man' albeit interesting from a socio-cultural perspective, really does lack that depth and backbone required to make a record feel memorable and timeless.