Alabama native Anderson East may be better known in some circles as Miranda Lambert’s other half, but he’s also carved out a successful career as a songwriter and musician in his own right. After the success of his critically acclaimed major label debut Delilah in 2015, now he’s back with his latest album, Encore.
The album opens with King For A Day, which East wrote with Chris and Morgane Stapleton. It’s got a slow, swampy groove and really shows off the gravel in East’s voice. I loved the addition of the gospel choir as well, which creates a gorgeous soaring finish to the song.
Throughout the record East takes elements of Southern soul music but adds a modern twist to them, such as the mix of organ and electric guitar on This Too Shall Last, the jazzy touches on House Is A Building, and the melancholy If You Keep Leaving Me, which starts off with a sparse melody before building to a huge crescendo. These arrangements really allow East to show off his incredible vocal talent, switching between smooth bluesy vibes and raw growly tones. At times, such as the Proud Mary-esque Surrender and the Motown-influenced cover of Sorry You’re Sick, he almost breaks into a yell, highlighting the power in his voice but still maintaining control.
However, the standout songs for me are those in the second half of the album, starting with All On My Mind, which East co-wrote with Ed Sheeran. The dramatic strings intro is a significant contrast to what’s come before and the heavy drumbeats and almost Gothic vibes highlight the smokiness of East’s vocal. Meanwhile, the subdued approach to Without You makes the pain in East’s voice come through much stronger, whilst the dramatic opening to Somebody Pick Up My Pieces balances against East’s restrained vocal, meaning the big finish packs a more powerful punch.
The album closes with Cabinet Door, where the simple piano melody showcases the clarity and richness of East’s vocal and allows the evocative imagery of the songwriting to shine. It’s a very moving song and ends the record on a slightly downbeat note. Yet it also shows that when it comes down to it, East doesn’t need all the production bells and whistles – he’s a talented vocalist and songwriter who can deliver a strong emotional performance without going too over the top.
Overall Encore is a strong 60s soul-meets-Americana record and shows East’s ability as a songwriter and a singer, whilst balancing a mixture of styles throughout. Yes there are some moments that don’t quite work – as much as I loved the swagger and bombastic funk of Girlfriend, musically it’s a bit all over the place. But if you’re looking for a modern-day blues album then this is a great place to start.
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Track listing: 1. King For A Day 2. This Too Shall Last 3. House Is A Building 4. Sorry You’re Sick 5. If You Keep Leaving Me 6. Girlfriend 7. Surrender 8. All On My Mind 9. Without You 10. Somebody Pick Up My Pieces 11. Cabinet Door Record label: Elektra / Low Country Sound Release date: 12th January 2018