If you need any evidence of the influence of the recently-departed Rick Hall, look no further than this brand new release from Anderson East.
Rick Hall, who passed away on January 2nd, was the man who ran Fame Studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama and produced or engineered or in some way furthered the careers of Aretha Franklin, Wilson Pickett, Candi Staton, Etta James, Percy Sledge, Clarence Carter…even The Osmonds.
Hall’s distinctive country/soul sound is all over Encore and I guess there should be no surprise there as East’s previous album, 2015’s Delilah, was recorded at Fame. Just hearing the first few bars of opener King For A Day and I was taken back to 1968 and Clarence Carter’s Slip Away.
If Anderson East is looking to recreate that classic sound, he has succeeded.
But fortunately Encore is more than just an exercise in nostalgia. East has the songs, the voice and the emotional pull to make this a collection stand on its own without pandering to fans who just want to listen to records made the way they were 50 years ago.
Having said that, he does indeed, make them like they used to.
King For A Day is a glorious amalgam of Muscle Shoals, Memphis and Nashville styles co-written by Anderson along with Chris and Morgana Stapleton. I should also mention that the producer here is Dave Cobb, a guy who, thanks to his work with Chris Stapleton, Sturgill Simpson and Lindi Ortega, is making some of the best-sounding records to come out of Nashville, or anywhere else for that matter.
The songwriting remains strong throughout. This Too Shall Last and House Is A Building, the next two tracks, are particularly fetching. The former recalls Van Morrison circa Tupelo Honey, while the latter really hits that Memphis Stax/Hi Records sweet spot.
Occasionally, things get a little too retro.
If You Keep Leaving Me sounds way too much like Otis Redding’s I’ve Been Loving You Too Long, but even so, Anderson East’s impassioned vocal performance is impressive.
Another original, Surrender, sounds like an outtake from Wilson Pickett’s Land Of 1000 Dances session. Again, it sound cool, but maybe too much like something that has gone on before.
There are a couple of well-chosen covers.
Ted Hawkins’ Sorry Your Sick receives a rollicking, upbeat reworking, while Willie Nelson’s Somebody Pick Up My Pieces swells to a stately gospel number.
Even Ed Sheeran helps out, co-writing All On My Mind, but don’t let that put you off, it happens to be the album’s steamiest tune.
The record closes with a true country weeper. Cabinet Door finds a recently widowed man having a conversation with his recently-deceased wife as he rambles around their house. East pulls out all the stops in an effort to generate tears as the man rummages through his dead wife’s cook books, asks her how to work the coffee pot and gives her an update on the status of their seven children…Molly got her braces off.
It’s an unabashedly blatant attempt to pull at your heartstrings and leave you sobbing. I suggest you give in and have a good cry. You’ll feel better for it.
Encore is released on Friday, January 12th.