The Canadian Maritimes aren't necessarily known for producing A-list blues acts, but over a decade's worth of quality releases and heavy touring have made New Brunswick's Matt Andersen into one of the nation's more reliable performers. For the follow-up to his Juno-nominated 2014 album Weightless, the powerhouse singer teamed up with veteran R&B producer Commissioner Gordon (Amy Winehouse, Joss Stone) in New York to record Honest Man. Throughout Andersen's career, his roots-oriented approach has included elements of blues, folk, soul, rock, and country, so a venture into the R&B world seems like it should be a fairly natural progression for him. Opening track "Break Away" is buoyantly funky with a tight beat and an uplifting message that suits his warm, friendly voice. The title cut is another funky affair with a nice interlocking B-3 and horn groove that really sets the tone for the album's direction. One of the most noticeable things about Honest Man is Gordon's use of programmed beats, samples, and synths to propel the songs. As a performer, Andersen is the kind of guy who can captivate a room with just an acoustic guitar and that big, comforting voice, and this new sonic setting is a bit of a shock at first. Of the more organic-sounding tunes, the dark piano ballad "I'm Giving In" and the Stax-inspired "Last Surrender" are standouts, and regardless of the added studio gloss, Andersen remains as likable as ever. ~ Timothy Monger
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