Andersen also avoids the current obsession with over-singing. He doesn’t try to impress you with endless vocal noodling. He sings the song. He lays it out there and lets the power of piece stand on its own rather than trying to wallow in excess. And manages to do this while sounding completely relaxed, as if he could belt out the tunes from an Easy Boy while drinking a beer. He sings with the confidence of a man who doesn't have to prove himself.
The album begins with “What Would Your Mama Say,” and for a moment you would be forgiven for thinking he came from Alabama. All of the basic ingredients show up right from the start; blues, soul, country, and the church. Backed by the McCrary sisters, the result is down home and righteous. It’s a musical potluck waiting to be devoured.
“Something to Lose” is a slow duet with Americana sweetheart Amy Helm. Supported by an empathic horn section, Andersen and Helm pledge to hold on to a love that is too good to let go. It is a treat to hear such wizened voices blend so perfectly.
“Free Man” builds from a single strummed guitar before the Hammond organ brings the sauce to this R&B barbecue. “Been My Last” is a tender ballad about lost love, with an understated vocal that emphasizes the sense of that loss.
For my money the best tracks are in the middle of the record. “Give Me Some Light” has a solid gospel feel, a song about searching for a way to hold on in the darkness. The slide guitar adds a sting to the open wound the singer bears. “Better Than You Want” is the testimony of a man determined grow and exceed the expectations of his lover. The guitar work is subtle and sinewy and underscores his commitment to remake himself into the best he can be.
The record is a delight from start to finish, and a revelation if you haven’t heard Andersen before. He restores our faith in honest singing, without theatrics. Dive in to this record and you’ll find yourself swimming in the deep waters of Andersen’s soul.