‘Delilah’, Anderson East’s debut album, produced by Dave Cobb (Jason Isbell, Chris Stapleton) is a collection of ‘60s Southern Soul, Rhythm & Blues, Doo-Wop and Country. For those who are suspicious of imitation, fear not because though the record brings elements of the past into the mix, it is an undeniably original and modern piece of music.
East clearly has a deep affection and emotional tie to the soul music of the ‘60s, “I don’t know any other music that feels good. When Wilson (Pickett) screams of Aretha (Franklin) goes up high, it’s their spirit, what’s inside them – their personalities you hear.”
The album is one of deep-seated longing, regret and inner turmoil, set against a soulful, groove-inducing, forceful and at times heartbreaking soundtrack. ‘Delilah’ spans the spectrum of love: from heartache and desolation to unrestrained desire and sweet affection.
‘Devil In Me’ is the centerpiece of the album. A slower paced song compared to its’ predecessors, with a gentle acoustic guitar, gospel-infused backing vocals and soaring horns. The track tells the story of a Church infatuation, conducted by longing glances across the aisle.
“I know the Lord’s been good to me/ When I look at the Preacher’s daughter/ She’s my Delilah/ She brings me to my knees”
The album, when not filled with powerful horns and soulful backing vocals, takes the listener into the territory of soulful country, allowing the beautiful, image-laden lyrics to really shine. With lines like, “Sun peers through/ And flowers bloom/ It makes no difference to me”, from ‘Lying In Her Arms’, and “My heart can’t say goodbye/ Like the blue can’t leave the sky” from ‘Quit You’.
East has a gift for making you feel like you are the girl in the “cotton-red sundress/ sitting cross-legged/ bitchin ‘bout your ex” in ‘What A Woman Wants To Hear’ or that you are the one standing there on the lake edge watching the “sundress on a willow tree/moon’s on the water” on ‘Devil In Me’.
One moment, his vocals are gravelly, forceful and honey coated, and the next they are heartbreaking and subdued. At times you get the feeling the words are even painful for him to utter. The closing lines on ‘Lying In Her Arms’ are evidence of this ache;
“You were the only one I holding/ And I was holding her close/ You were the only one I was thinking of/ Lying in her arms/ Throwing away our love/ Our love.”
‘What A Woman Wants To Hear’ is my personal favourite on the album. The lyrics are perfection; the mood and emotion captured by both the music and Anderson’s vocals are a match made in heaven. The song talks of what you think is initially a one night stand but as the lyrics progress, you wonder if it is just that or if it’s about holding onto that one moment in time, and not thinking about the next day, the next week, and so on.
Each track on ‘Delilah’ is one single blade of grass, one photograph, one moment lovingly crafted rather than an entire painting or life-story crammed into three and half minutes. Like any good storyteller, this is where East’s true gift lies, in creating a whole world in one song; making you really feel it but also leaving you wanting more.
“You can’t catch it in a picture”, East sings in ‘All I’ll Ever Need” is what this album is really about: giving the listener just enough of the details that you can see the story unraveling but leaving enough unsaid that your imagination can run free.
I feel the same about writing this; I just can’t capture all my love and admiration for this album, and Anderson East’s lyricism, vocals and soul in mere words. I can honestly say that ‘Delilah’ will definitely be playing in my record collection for years to come. Art and music is so subjective and personal, which what makes it so beautiful and divisive. Therefore, I understand why some who hear this album just won’t “get” my infatuation but I really do urge you all to just sit and listen to this beautifully soulful collection of stories.