Marisa Anderson channels the history of the guitar and stretches the boundaries of tradition. Her playing is fluid, emotional, and masterful, featuring compositions and improvisations that re-imagine the landscape of American music. Her deeply original work applies elements of minimalism, electronic music, drone and 20th century classical music to compositions based on blues, jazz, gospel and country music.
Originally from Northern California, Anderson dropped out of college at age nineteen to walk across the US and eventually landed in Portland, Oregon, where she currently lives. Classically trained, she honed her skills playing in country, jazz and circus bands. In 2009 she released her first solo guitar record, ‘The Golden Hour’, followed by ‘Mercury’ (2011) and ‘Traditional and Public Domain Songs’ (2013). More recently, she has been in demand as a collaborator and composer, contributing to recordings by Beth Ditto and Sharon Van Etten, and creating music for short films.
On her newest release, ‘Into the Light’ Anderson leaves Appalachia and the Delta blues behind as she journeys west, into the heart of the sun. Written as the soundtrack to an imaginary science-fiction western film, the record’s ten songs trace the story of a visitor lost and wandering on the shifting borderlands of the Sonoran desert. ‘Into the Light’ is shimmering and cinematic, the pieces built around pedal steel, lap steel and electric piano as well as Anderson’s signature guitar sound.
Anderson tours extensively throughout Europe and North America. Her work has been featured in Rolling Stone, NPR, SPIN, Pitchfork and The Wire. Her split LP with guitarist Tashi Dorji was named one of the top experimental records of 2015 by The Out Door/Pitchfork. She has provided music for multiple recordings, film scores, soundtracks and live shows. Recent festival appearances include the Copenhagen Jazz Festival, Sweden’s Gagnef Festival, Fano Free Folk Festival, Le Guess Who, and the Festival of Endless Gratitude.
Her recent Into the Light is her most satisfying solo album to date, finding new timbres in pedal steel, piano and Wurlitzer, weaving a mesmerizing spell with only her fingers – Rolling Stone
She pushes her compositions towards the heavens – SPIN
Her playing is raw and unadorned… wrought by an overdriven, electric guitar that exposes and hides the mysteries of American music. -NPR
Anderson unfolds as a master of stylistic swivels, pushing from steady-handed blues staggers to open-road pontifications, from understated ragas to psychedelic meditations with a deliberate quality that belies the record’s title. She’s a fleet, dexterous picker with a broad sense of what her guitar can do -Pitchfork
Her sound has strength in restless variety…Anderson’s playing is heartfelt and utterly American- free from grandstanding and steeped in respect for the old tradition. -The WIre
Anderson…has paid her dues and done her research: she played in country, circus, and jazz bands before applying her acumen to a series of solo instrumental records for acoustic and electric guitar and lap steel. Her performances of chestnuts such as “Just a Closer Walk With Thee” and “Farther Along” are structurally sound and patiently paced, allowing the audience to soak in her waves of Pops Staples-style reverb and be hypnotized by her Elizabeth Cotton-inspired fingerpicking.-Chicago Reader
Her playing is fluid and meandering, notes dropping out of her guitar like melted silver. It’s all shiny and glistening with a warm fuzz from her guitar amp. Her deep knowledge about America’s musical history allow her to reinterpret and rearrange known tunes to something completely new, unheard and still familiar.-dying for bad music
Anderson’s tone is one to wade out into – one moment her slide brittle and brief against the grooves of the steel strings, the next a long-in-dying tremolo her instrument’s heaving breaths. Anderson is mesmerizing – from the freer interpretations, such as the shamanistic “Battle Hymn of the Republic,” to straighter renditions, such as the Merle Travis thumb-hop of “When the Roll is Called Up Yonder” – the swirl of whiskey poured into tea; a drawn-out story in the shade. -Boston Hassle
THREE THINGS will happen when you listen to Marisa Anderson’s Mercury: you’ll instantly get used to it, you’ll never get tired of it, and you’ll be flooded by your own personal filmstrip of dusty roads, rusty trains, craggy mountains, and weathered faces.-Portland Mercury
Anderson’s haunting and evocative slide-guitar work takes the delta-blues into uncharted territory. -Time Out London