Ever since his first major single “Satisfy Me” hit the radio waves back in 2015, it’s been surprising to see how little attention Anderson East has received amongst the mainstream crowd. His charming voice carries nostalgia (James Brown maybe?), and his diverse use of horns and trumpets brings people back to the days of Motown, where his mixture of funk and gospel music have been refreshing in an industry looking for something reminiscent of that time period.
Following in what my opinion was a very successful commercial debut in Delilah, East returns with his boldly-titled sophomore effort, Encore. Much like on his first album, Anderson bounces off of different genres throughout the 40 minute running time, and shows quite a bit of versatility in his style.
Interestingly enough, East starts the project off with a laid back country vibe on the very vibrant intro track, “King For a Day.” The collaboration between him and co-writer Chris Stapleton works nicely, especially considering how both artists lived in Nashville at some point in their lives.
Compared to Delilah, East is determined to invite us into his home in the south on Encore. This rings true on a majority of the songs here, notably on the piano-driven ballad, “House is a Building,” where East sings, “if a house is a building, then home is a feeling.” While corny at points, it’s moments like these where listeners learn the most about the Tennessee native.
His versatility and awareness of tempo is something that East masters on his most recent record. He can be mellow and easygoing like on the bluesy love tune, “If You Keep Leaving Me,” but then he provides us with that southern flare on the very instrumentally-diverse, “Sorry Your Sick.” The latter song is like a race car that refuses to stop, even well after the finish line.
East gets a little messier on the very off-the-wall sixth track, “Girlfriend.” Lyrically, he is at his most skeletal, and instrumentally, the horn arrangements are all over the place and poorly mixed. Considering how well of a grasp East seems to have on his current sound, it surprised me to see such below average production on this single. Luckily, he cleans it up on the boisterous eighth song, “Surrender.” His voice glides exceptionally better over more in-tune mixing.
East even steps into the Gospel realm on the surprisingly haunting, “All On My Mind.” Vocally, this was by-in-large his best performance on the entire record, resulting in this mammoth of a pop ballad. Honestly, I almost wish that Sam Smith could have hopped on this cut, as it reminded me of something up his alley.
“All On My Mind” was a great introduction for what the rest of the album contains. Although I feel like East stays on the safer side when it comes to the production at the end of this project, he leaves a lot of room for his roaring voice to be heard, especially on the grandiose, “Somebody Pick Up My Pieces.” When the horns and background gospel vocal enters, it’s almost like I’ve been transported to the south myself.
East goes back to his piano on the very genuine and teary-eyed finale, “Cabinet Door.” Again, the gospel performance gives me goosebumps, and I specifically love the little baseball noise he makes in the middle of the track as he sings, “talking over the T.V., watching the Braves game.”
It’s the little things that set East apart from most musicians who are trying to bring the southern blues back to relevance in the industry. While there seemed to be no clear cut concept to Encore, I do believe that stylistically, East splits the record up into three parts. The first part being the more country side of him, the second being more funky and rock-inspired, and the final part being the Gospel side of his arsenal. There are some moments where East tends to fall flat lyrically, but overall, this was his most versatile effort to date.