Review: Anderson East shows his enormous talent on 'Encore'

This cover image released by Elektra shows "Encore," a release by Anderson East. (Elektra via AP)

Anderson East, "Encore" (Elektra)

As a sign that Anderson East is an artist on the rise, he's been handed a tune for his new album by some pretty special songwriters — no less than two guys behind a little ditty called "Shape of You."

"All on My Mind" was co-written by Ed Sheeran and Snow Patrol's Johnny McDaid and it has wisely been turned into a soul-rock burner by East, whose voice is barely contained, ragged and roaring.

The song is a highlight on East's "Encore," which in turn, highlights an exciting singer-songwriter effortlessly able to blend elements of rock, blues, country and soul. East sounds both deeply classic and yet fresh. He's got sax and trumpets, tinkly keyboards and great guitar work. The stew is as American as a pair of old blue jeans.

"Encore" is expertly produced by Dave Cobb — who did the same with East's debut full-length "Delilah" — and Cobb doesn't just fiddle with switches. He plays bass, percussion, acoustic and electric guitars, arranges horn sections and even supplies hand claps. East also gets guitar and writing help from Chris Stapleton and Ryan Adams helps out on "This Too Shall Last."

For a relatively young man, East's voice is a thing of wonder, marbled like a slab of beef that's been drenched in bourbon. That doesn't mean the 30-year-old can't have fun: Another standout is the cheeky "Girlfriend," a foot-stomping confession that he's in love with a friend's fiancee ("Brother, we might have a problem/Cause she's staring me down and I'm tempted.")

East can wail, but he also knows when to contain himself. On "King for a Day," a song he co-wrote with Chris and Morgane Stapleton that recalls Curtis Mayfield's "People Get Ready," he's almost subdued, respecting the tight arrangement.

The 11-track album also includes two covers — East transforms Willie Nelson's exhausted ballad "Somebody Pick Up My Pieces" into a rollicking gospel-style triumph and turns Ted Hawkins' depressing ditty "Sorry You're Sick" into a full horn-driven finger-snapper, complete with his best Joe Cocker impression.

The album closes with the somber "Cabinet Door," in which East — who is dating Miranda Lambert — imagines himself an elderly widower eulogizing his dead wife. It's incredibly specific — "Molly got her braces off" and "How do you work this damn coffee pot?" — and somewhat indulgent, but it's a brave song for a young man with a bright musical future.

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Mark Kennedy is at http://twitter.com/KennedyTwits

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