From the August 2016 issue of Acoustic Guitar | BY PAT MORAN
Midway through At Home and in Nashville, Andy Ferrell sashays out onto the dance floor with the jostling “Nobody to Answer To” and declares it’s time to move on. That’s exactly what the 23-year-old singer-songwriter’s full-length debut does. After devoting its first half to burnished honky-tonk and bittersweet country recorded with a studio band in Nashville, the album shifts focus to a solo live performance in Boone, North Carolina—just a stone’s throw from the bronze statue of local hero Doc Watson. Watson’s deft and gentle touch is felt in Ferrell’s rapturous picking on his Martin and Gibson Jumbo, which threads throughout these songs. It’s one of many ripples in a pool of sources ranging from Woody Guthrie to ’70s radio-ready pop.
On “Photographs and Letters,” an incandescent shuffle wrapped in ribbons of pedal steel, Ferrell’s fine-grained tenor drifts above muted martial drums, recalling Paul Simon’s “50 Ways to Leave Your Lover.” “Poor Man’s Son” delivers hardscrabble populism with onrushing harmonies by Ferrell and the Railsplitters’ Lauren Stovall.
The studio tracks are splendid, but Ferrell excels on the flip side’s stripped-down solo strumming. Restless cantering acoustic drives the (mostly) true story of Billy the Kid on “Run Billy Run,” and switchbacks of syncopated picking drive “The Price of Freedom,” a sweetly sad parable told with scalpel sharp acuity.
On this casually confident set, hand-crafted roots and Music City polish find balance in plangent guitar and a plain-spoken poet weaving his hypnotic spell.
This article originally appeared in the August 2016 issue of Acoustic Guitar magazine.