Sliding in alongside such critics’-picks luminaries as Jason Isbell and Sturgill Simpson, Anderson East typifies the modern/retro polyglot roots music coming from the South. His is a sound both eccentric and classicist. On his thoroughly enjoyable 2015 debut Delilah, the smoky-voiced and fresh-faced East ransacks the attics and toy chests of the South: blue-eyed soul, gospel, old-style R & B, some garage rock, blues, honky-tonk and a hint of country narrative. Nothing in the songs, sound and production requires us to consider anything that happened after 1973. In this sense, the Alabama native is a natural compatriot of the reverent retro of the New York-based Daptone label.
Born Mike Anderson in the tiny town of Athens, Alabama, East is the grandson of a Baptist preacher: the kind of soul credential that money simply can’t buy. Under his given name, he released Closing Credits for a Fire in 2009, about which YouTube and all the subscription services have strangely little to say. A mere year later, he had found his nom de roots and released Fire Demos. Based on the title alone, we might surmise that the record was a less-is-more reclamation of the songs from an ill-conceived debut, but this is pure speculation. An LA chapter and another lost album follow, but it is all just prelude to the Nashville-produced Delilah.
On Saturday, August 20 at the Belleayre Music Festival, Anderson East teams with another bright star of the current Nashville scene in “garage country” breakout artists Aubrie Sellers, the daughter of country legend Lee Ann Womack. Sellers’ 2016 release New City Blues is committed to grit, noise and deep-pocket groove. In an unusual Belleayre Music Festival tradition, local heroes the Big Takeover kick things off with a pre-show set at 6:30 p.m. The concert proper begins at 8 p.m. in the incomparably beautiful Catskill Mountain setting.
Tickets cost $28, $38 and $48. For tickets and more information, visit http://belleayremusic.org. The Belleayre Ski Center is located at 181 Galli Curci Road in Highmount.