Love on the Rocks
4 out of 5 stars
Band? Who needs a band? Not gutsy soul/blues/rock singer Lauren Anderson and she proves it on the opening track of her first release since the well-received Won’t Stay Down EP in 2019.
The introductory “Keep On” is an a cappella tour de force as Anderson’s husky, gritty vocals tear into a gospel/chain gang-style original accompanied by only handclaps and a throbbing bass drum. It’s a stunningly powerful stripped-down performance.
Even though she employs musicians for the other eight tracks, that starter goes a long way in establishing her raw vocal talents. The Nashville by way of Chicago and Kansas singer/songwriter is classically trained and has a master’s degree in music therapy. But live performance called her and although she briefly flirted with singing opera (!), it’s the blues that ended up being the beneficiary of her dynamic, gritty vocals and Joplin-esque swagger.
She wrote all nine tracks, co-produced them, and proves that she’s every bit as potent a presence as Susan Tedeschi, Janiva Magness, or Beth Hart, just a few contemporaries she is often compared to. From the swampy “Gravity” to the pumping rock of “Just F**king Begun” where she rails about those who say she’s too old for her profession withYou say my life is over? I’m done?/I say my life has just f**king begun, Anderson never lets up.
The slow blues title track finds the singer dialing down her thrust for a more measured approach, but not for long. She then digs into the grimy slow blues-rock of “Back to Chicago,” a kiss-off to a no-good lover with You walked out/ on me and mine / and all you left / was wasted time as the music grinds and builds to an intense crescendo. The churchy “Stand Still” is a low boil soul/blues where a simmering Anderson tells her partner they are in it as a team. When she hits the chorus, the song becomes a torchy, emotional plea for staying together. It’s the kind of passionate epic her voice is perfect for. The closing ballad “Your Turn” takes things down a notch as strings enter and Anderson questions why she can’t find love with the wincingly personal All that I want/Is to find my person/I’ve been searching everywhere and/I’m tired…
The only frustration is that, at only 30 minutes, the set is frustratingly short. That’s especially disappointing because there have been one-off singles released over the past few years like her rootsy version of Radiohead’s “Creep” and a cover of Whitney Houston’s hit “I Want to Dance With Somebody” that are oddly MIA.
But there remains plenty here to put Lauren Anderson on the blues rocking map, ignite some much overdue attention and garner an audience that would surely embrace her remarkable talents, with or without a band, if they were exposed to them.