Burly Canadian Matt Andersen has that killer combination of talents—sharp guitar skills and a polished powerhouse of a voice—of which legends are made. Do yourself a favor and watch his YouTube performance of "Ain't No Sunshine" from a 2009 show. It's a deeply moving rendition, and he holds the song's final note for 16 seconds. Man has some lungs on him.
In the context of a full band, Andersen is able to flesh out the soul on Honest Man. Piano, scratchy guitar, organ and classic backup singers give a throwback feel to songs like "The Gift" and "Breakaway." His voice has that rough-over-smooth edge that is the hallmark of the greatest soul singers from Al Green to Brittney Howard. The title track brings a horn section to the party for a funky stomp that's reminiscent of Robert Cray. But Andersen is far from a one-trick pony. The piano-and-guitar rumination "Quiet Company" is country-tinged folk that could take the heat out of the hardest day at work.
There's nothing groundbreaking here lyrically, but Andersen isn't about clever words or a unique worldview. What he does is craft emotionally satisfying music that's delivered with a big, classic voice and a tight and tasty band. Overall, Honest Man achieves that difficult balance of sounding fresh and familiar at the same time.
Matt Andersen opens for Bruce Hornsby & the Noisemakers at the Wilma Fri. Aug. 5. Doors at 7 PM, show at 8. $35–$45 advance.