Album of the Week: Anderson East, 'Encore'

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Anderson East, 'Encore'
Anderson East, 'Encore' (Low Country Sound/Elektra)
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There are a bunch of great artists making great retro-soul and R&B music these days, even after losing two of my favorites, Sharon Jones and Charles Bradley, in the past 14 months. Artists like Leon Bridges, City and Colour, St. Paul and the Broken Bones, and Nathaniel Rateliff come to mind, among others.

It can be kind of a crowded field. It can be easy to dismiss an artist. Especially when they are as well connected as Anderson East: his girlfriend is one of country music's queens, Miranda Lambert; pop star Ed Sheeran and country star Chris Stapleton co-wrote songs on this new album; hotshot Americana and country producer Dave Cobb worked with East on his last two albums.

Perhaps that's why I just didn't think Anderson East's new album would really work for me. But it's kind of the slow season for new releases, so I decided to check out East's latest, called Encore. I learned pretty quickly that my preconceived notions about him were a little off.

Anderson East lives in Nashville now, but he hails from Athens, Alabama, right near Muscle Shoals, where Southern Soul music has its roots. Artists like Secret Sisters, Drive-By Truckers, John Paul White, Alabama Shakes, Paul Janeway (of St. Paul and the Broken Bones) and Jason Isbell all grew up there. Not to mention all of the great music recorded in that area in the '60s and '70s, like Aretha Franklin, Otis Redding and Wilson Pickett — all of them mostly backed by the Swampers, who were a bunch of great studio musicians from the area. With such a disproportionate amount of musical talent in that neck of the woods, I think there is definitely something in the water there!

Anderson East apparently drank some of that water. He shows wisdom beyond his 29 years. He can testify in the mode of Otis Redding or Van Morrison. He is simply a great singer. He can be smooth as silk or rough as sandpaper.

Encore is a great record and mixes it up nicely from the easygoing Southern Soul vibe of the album's lead tune "King For A Day" to the gospel-inspired finale "Cabinet Door," where he sings the sweet line, "I miss holding your hand on Sunday."

It's not all retro-soul. "Girlfriend" has a more contemporary feel, as does "All On My Mind," the album's first single — the one co-written by Ed Sheeran. That one has some very clever wordplay; East sings, "She can wear a nightgown to a wedding, a T-shirt to bed," insisting that he could match her: "I could wear wingtips to a wedding, 501s to bed."

This album is loaded! There are love songs like "This Too Shall Last," which features a sweet and comforting melody. There is also the other side of the coin, a breakup song, "If You Keep Leaving Me," which is one of the album's highlights — Anderson East just kills the vocal on this one.
There are even a couple of choice covers, like Willie Nelson's "Somebody Pick Up the Pieces," which East pours his heart and soul into. My personal favorite song on the album is East's take on the late Ted Hawkins tune, "Sorry You're Sick," which will make your ailing self feel pretty darn good!

Anderson East didn't reinvent the wheel with his new Encore. He just made a really good album. This guy is the real deal. So much for preconceived notions!

Resources


Anderson East - Official Site

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  • Anderson East performs in The Current studio Ahead of his show at the Varsity Theater opening for the Lone Bellow, Alabama native Anderson East stopped by The Current to perform live in-studio and to chat with host Mark Wheat about his latest album, <em>Delilah</em>.