Often when young singers connect with soul or blues legacies, they don angels' wings — reaching for transcendent big notes within arrangements as clean and full of echo as a megachurch. Not Anderson East. The Athens, Alabama, native, who's lived in Nashville since his days at Middle Tennessee State University, has a natural rasp in his voice and a predilection for the sexy, gritty side of roots music. East started as an acoustic guitar strummer doing songwriters' round robins near Music Row, but after working with Sturgill Simpson's and Jason Isbell's producer Dave Cobb, he's turned toward the funky sounds that grew up just down the road from where he did. His new recordings come from Muscle Shoals, Alabama — and it's a pretty perfect fit.
"Satisfy Me" is one of five live tracks East recorded at Fame, the same studio where his hero Wilson Pickett laid down classic tracks like "In the Midnight Hour." Working with a stellar band that includes Jeremy Fetzer of Steelism on guitar, Humming House singer Kristen Rogers on backing vocals, Sugarland bassist Annie Clements on bass and Chris Powell (who works with Jamey Johnson) on drums — not to mention the jumping horn section of Wesley Winfrey and Fredrick Weathersby — East delivers a collar-grabbing performance that's both nuanced and passionate. The song itself, which East co-wrote, plays expertly with the poetics of cajolery that singers like Pickett pioneered. "I've got a PhD. in TLC," East moans, and who wouldn't believe him? He's clearly absorbed every necessary lesson.
"Satisfy Me" appears on a live EP streaming on Spotify starting April 7, and the studio version is part of East's eclectic, fully formed debut album, Delilah, coming in July on Cobb's Low Country Sound imprint for Elektra Records. Writing his own version of the resurrected rhythm and blues sound his neighbors in the Alabama Shakes and St. Paul and the Broken Bones have so vibrantly taken nationwide, East champions sweat, sweet emotion and getting a little dirty. It's a classic approach that feels real, and is bound to bring him success.