Long time second guitarist in Jason Isbell’s 400 Unit (and previously in Drivin’ n Cryin’), Sadler Vaden, steps out from the shadow and shines bright on his second solo LP, Anybody Out There?, out via Thirty Tigers/Dirty Mag Records on March 6, 2020.
Vaden dropped “Next to You,” the high-energy rocking lead single off Anybody Out There? and Audley Freed co-write, back in November stirring great expectations for the record. On “Next to You” Vaden builds on his affection for Tom Petty, Drivin-n-Cryin, and his South Carolina roots on a radio ready single replete with tambourines, big chorus, and hooks galore. From the first note big chords and full throated vocals draws in the otherwise casual listener as Vaden declares his devotion rattling off a list of all things he’d do, “just to be next to you”. “Hell, high water, misfortune at times, all this I will go through just to be next to you,” he sings. A short but sweet guitar solo reminiscent of Isebll’s days with Drive-by-Truckers bristles with anthem ready energy as a chorus of “just to be next to you” carries us through the songs end. “Next to You” set the bar high for the rest of Anybody Out There? and Vaden doesn’t disappoint.
On “Golden Child,” Vaden finds himself at home deep in the groove as he sings about the power guitar gods and newborns wield, “I don’t want for nothing much….I’ll break your heart with just a smile, the golden child.” The title track opens over drum intro that would’ve made Jon Bonham smile before guitars crash the party with an angsty synth in tow. “No one asks if I’m doing alright, does anybody seem to care, I’m just trying to get through tonight, so tell me is there anybody out there?” Vaden questions while simultaneously outlining the record’s driving concerns – the human need for connection, especially relevant to an adored performer.
“Curtain Call” and “Be Here, Right Now” take a turn toward the quiet and melancholy where acoustic guitars and unsteady hearts demand attention. On the former Vaden sneaks in a small tribute to Tom Petty while contemplating his place in the performing life, and the inevitable end we all face, “I can still hear you sing I Won’t Back Down, but is my curtain call now?” On the latter, he sings, “I want to take you away somewhere safe and warm and pull ourselves together.” “Peace and Harmony” a co-write with Aaron Lee Tasjan channels post-Beatle George Harrison with a counter-point guitar full of modern grit. “Everybody’s screaming, everybody’s fighting…don’t you want to try a little peace and harmony,” Vaden spits with righteous indignation. “I want to be a good man…for you; I used to stand aside and turn my eye to what was wrong, the veil has lifted up on what I’ve over looked so long,…and I know what side I’m for, I want to be a good man,” sings Vaden on “Good Man” over a laid back rocker with Big Star vocals. On “Good Man” Vaden looks to his future and begins to take responsibility for his place in the world. The “Golden Child” has grown up to become the “Good Man”; Vaden’s road map to personal growth plays less like a self-help message and more like a rock-n-roll musical, but like all great music there’s meaning and message hiding just beneath all the bombast and glistening guitar lines. The guitar lines may draw the listener in, but the confessional self-reflective lyrical movements will keep listeners coming back for more after the last chord fades. Vaden’s simple philosophy is summarize in repetitive mantra-like chorus of “Be Here, Right Now”.
Self-produced, engineered by Paul Ebersold, mastered by Richard Dodd, and featuring performances from fellow 400 Unit compatriots, Anybody Out There? continues to build on Vaden’s already well-established body of work. The complete record drops on March 6th via Thirty Tigers and Dirty Mag Records, snag a copy ASAP; you won’t be disappointed. https://www.sadlervaden.com