World Famous Headliners

How do you know Big Al Anderson still loves his job? Leading this Nashville supergroup, the 65-year-old sounds younger than he did on “No Good to Cry,” the garage nugget he cut in 1967 with the Wildweeds, the Connecticut band he fronted before serving 22 years with cult heroes NRBQ. In fact, singing and playing guitar is no longer Anderson’s main gig. Since the 1990s, he’s made his bread penning hits for country artists, as have his Headliners collaborators, Shawn Camp and Pat McLaughlin. Here, the three songwriters save some of the good stuff for themselves.

Because Anderson, Camp and McLaughlin come from Music Row, there’s plenty of twang on these 13 songs. There’s also power-pop, mangy wah-wah-laced blues, Van Morrison soul and Buddy Holly rock. “Nobody to Love” is a kind of shuffling Americana take on “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da” ska, while opener “Give Your Love to Me” is a pop-a-billy scorcher loaded with silly come-ons and Beach Boys “ba-ba-ba” backup vocals. On some of the longer songs, the fellas overindulge in trading Telecaster licks—clearly amusing themselves—but that’s what headliners do. It’s best to stand back and watch ’em go.

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