The sound


By Michael Swanger


Sparks fly from Backyard Tire Fire’s blue-collar rock


In short, Backyard Tire Fire (BTF) is the kind of rock ‘n’ roll band everyman and everywoman can get behind once they hear their new album “Good To Be.”

The long of it, according to BTF’s well-thought-out bio, goes something like this:

“Backyard Tire Fire have achieved one of those big-time, long-haul records that matter far more than the sum of its considerable parts — and not via grandiose, larger-than-life lyrical imagery but through blue-collar, common sense miniatures that remind us of the simple beauty present in mundane, daily, person-to-person experience — a reminder that the hard work and struggle that these times are so dead-set about avoiding are the only actual treasures, the only worthwhile endeavors that bear fruit of substance.

“Which is not to say that ‘Good To Be’ is yet another one of those one-dimensional, granola-rootsy, rustic Americana takes on post-Uncle Tupelo barn-board rock; there is a taste of that, to be sure, but Anderson & Co. have spread the stylistic court with a rich, ever-expanding palette of aural rock ‘n’ roll colors and textures that tap into bouncy, Kinks-meet-Squeeze Brit pop-rock, Tom Petty-styled Southern rock, Beatle-esque majesty, intimate balladry, chiming folk-rock and heartland/populist chest-pounders. Bearing a consistent message of empathy, humanity and hope, ‘Good To Be’ is a triumph of [Ed] Anderson’s own 13-year journey as a rock and roller.”

Sparks fly when BTF opens “Good To Be” with the runaway, 18-wheel rocker “Roadsong #39,” an ode to the grind of the road as singer-guitarist Ed Anderson cries “it’s sweaty and it’s smoky and it’s ripe and it’s rock and roll.” There after, the Bloomington, Ill.-based trio downshifts through a cycle of heady, Wilco-esque songs about wanderlust (“Ready Or Not”), single motherhood (“Estelle”), undying love (“Hell and Back”) and the contemplative (“Food For Thought”) before revving up their motors again on “A Thousand Gigs Ago” and “Piss and Moan.”

Their combination of brains and brawn motivated Los Lobos’ Steve Berlin, who produced “Good To Be,” to proclaim that BTF’s timeless songs “represent the absolute best in American music.” And like their heroes, Neil Young, Los Lobos, Petty, etc., they’ve arrived on their own schedule instead of choosing the fast track to success by catering to trendy audiences.

“If we were some whiny indie band or a hippie jam band and we would ‘fuckin’ jam out dude,’ we could get pretty big, pretty quick because there are those groups of people who go to those shows and buy those records,” said Ed Anderson, BTF’s tell-it-like-it-is singer-guitarist. “The problem is, we’re not, and we’re not making it any easier on ourselves by not allowing people to easily slap a label on us. But I think in the long run people will appreciate it; that each song has it’s own personality and is different. I’m proud of that.”

Anderson is also proud that his independent band with its own record label has scored some hard-fought radio play for their new single, “Good To Be,” on stations across the country (Des Moines excluded, of course, now that KFMG is silent).

“We’re a rock and roll band, and radio is still a tool that can be used to sell records and tickets,” he said.

Over the years, BTF has steadily built a following in Des Moines. Last year, they opened for Gov’t Mule at the Simon Estes Amphitheater; they’ve headlined a few shows at the Vaudeville Mews, where they return on Saturday; and they’ve befriended kindred musical spirits and local rockers Brother Trucker.

“We know the Brother Trucker guys real well, and when we play acoustic shows we cover their song ‘Downtown,’” Anderson said. “We’ve got a little thing happening in Des Moines.”

Anderson said fans everywhere from all walks of life — from auto mechanics to insurance salesmen — can identify with their music. The 37-year-old musician wants fans to take note of one of the lessons he learned while making “Good To Be.”

“To take each day as a gift and work to make things better,” he said. “The beauty is in the journey.” CV


Caption: Backyard Tire Fire plays Saturday, Feb. 20 at 10 p.m. at the Vaudeville Mews. Brighton, MA opens. Admission is $10.


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