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Anderson East - Encore (Album Review)

Thursday, 18 January 2018 Written by Simon Ramsay

Every now and then you come across an artist you’re convinced is going to be a superstar. That, ladies and gents, is definitely the case with singer-songwriter Anderson East. Armed with a sassy smorgasbord of swinging R&B, roof-raising gospel and smouldering soul, the man from Alabama has dragged the vintage strains of Otis Redding, Joe Cocker, Sam Cooke and Ben E. King into the present.

That’s not to say East has suddenly materialised out of the ether intent on delivering salvation from all today’s artificial evils. No sir. The Dave Cobb-produced ‘Encore’ follows up three albums, the first of which was put out under the name Mike Anderson, and an EP. Prior to their release the 30-year-old grandson of a Baptist preacher studied music engineering in Tennessee, before working as a session player and studio hand. He’s grafted for his big break.

‘Delilah’, East’s sublime major label debut, was released via Elektra three years ago and whet the appetite for more. But aside from getting a song on the Fifty Shades Darker soundtrack he’s most recently been in the headlines due to his romance with country queen Miranda Lambert. ‘Encore’ looks set to change that, though. With a batch of unerringly heartfelt gems so wonderfully written, orchestrated and performed that he pulls off the tricky feat of recalling unearthed diamonds from yesteryear without it once feeling like a reverent reproduction.

This impressive achievement stems from a combination of Cobb’s vibrant production, the co-writing contributions of Chris Stapleton, Natalie Hemby and Aaron Raitiere, among others, and the fact that East sings with such expressive truthfulness. Delivered with his spine tingling range and instinctive ability to phrase each lyric perfectly for maximum impact, the results are timeless and universally relatable.

Packing vocal chords that have possibly been barbecued for days and then lathered with rich honey, his smoky rasp is equally comfortable letting rip on the super-charged Surrender, declaring unyielding affection during This Too Shall Last or whipping up a stirring storm of gospel emoting for If You Keep Leaving Me.

East’s compositional skillset, meanwhile, comes into its own on tracks that meld modern and traditional, where he demonstrates a canny flair for invention and reinterpretation. The sax-propelled Girlfriend may be a co-write with Avicci that possesses stunning electronic flourishes, but rather than feeling out of place it’s a swaggering mixture of past and present that could be this record’s crossover Trojan horse.

The same could be said for the outstanding All On My Mind. Originally penned by Ed Sheeran and Snow Patrol’s Johnny McDaid, East reworked it to suit his aesthetic, imbuing its potentially generic indie balladry with full-throated passion and raw power. Along similar lines, he’s turned Ted Hawkins’ breezy folk ditty Sorry You’re Sick into a barn storming big band romp and excavates a resilient fortitude from Willie Nelson’s mournful Somebody Pick Up My Pieces.

A heaven sent choir of soulful backing vocals, alongside mesmerising instrumental textures, gift ‘Encore’ with a gorgeously vibrant sonic canvas. Recalling the classy and cool stylings of the legendary Muscles Shoals Rhythm Section, delectable piano passages, swooning strings, agile grooves, whistling organs and a peppering of frisky and feline horns are empathetically performed by musicians whose magical touches will suffocate you before you even realise they’ve stolen your breath.

Whether it’s to do with East’s current relationship or his natural maturation, ‘Encore’ dishes up a more personal, fully rounded and cohesive exploration of the bittersweet complexities of love than ‘Delilah’. With an overarching narrative that navigates devotion, defiance, infatuation and crushing loss, it’s the sound of an artist coming into his own.

Anderson East Upcoming Tour Dates are as follows

Wed January 24 2018 - LONDON Omeara

Click here to compare & buy Anderson East Tickets at Stereoboard.com.

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