Although the club was colder than the inside of a keg and the band was unrehearsed, even a show Andrew Anderson would probably like to forget made me admire his music even more. Opening with a different arrangement of one of his nerviest songs, "Necessary Casualties," solo with a mandolin was a gutsy way to begin. Despite the Arctic climate and a backing group he hadn't seen for six weeks, the rest of the set was entertaining in a rough and ready way. Even with a group not totally on the cues, Anderson's songs have a natural structure to them that all but force the band into shape. What's more, the enthusiasm all the musicians shared -- particularly his bassist's cheerful harmonies -- was contagious.
You can make the best out of a bad night, or you can grin and bear it. Keeping his frustration limited to a few blood-curdling screams, Anderson kept it together for "Once Met a Girl," a creatively re-harmonized take on "Somewhere Over the Rainbow," and during a mid-set solo break, the stark and affecting "Hemingway." Good country ought to be a little rough and road-weary, and I enjoyed the show immensely for all its rough patches. By the time things wound down with the uncompromising-but-accessible "Damn It Man," even the sheepish drummer and lead guitarist had been won over by the strength of the material. It can only get better from here.