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Strong Voice Buoys Debut of Sunshine Anderson

Record Rack

*** SUNSHINE ANDERSON; "Your Woman" Soulife/Atlantic

May 12, 2001|NATALIE NICHOLS

With her scolding, retro-funky hit "Heard It All Before," this young R&B singer displays an affinity for sassy vintage soul that makes it utterly sensible for her to be managed by Macy Gray. But Sunshine Anderson is no mere clone of her star handler.

The North Carolina native's warm, strong voice isn't as strikingly unusual as Gray's, but it is definitely the star of her debut album, effortlessly carrying her through even the low points of the material, mostly written by songwriter-producer Mike City (Anderson contributed to four tunes).

Following the loose concept of an evolving romance, her persona veers from no-nonsense to nauseatingly needy. Still, she gamely adopts an attitude, whether for the hip-hop-funk ex-boyfriend reality-check "Better Off" or the silky, dependent R&B-pop of "Saved the Day," which essentially says "I love you because you take me out and give me money."

Mixed messages aside, "Your Woman" extravagantly revisits the whole orchestral-boogie feel of '70s-era soul-pop, piling strings, horns and vibes atop boomping bass, wailing organ and wah-wah guitars. Curiously, however, although the Soulife label has been praised for emphasizing live musicianship over programmed tracks, such numbers as "Being Away" are so drenched in keyboards that they feel stiflingly mechanical.

*

Albums are rated on a scale of one star (poor), two stars (fair), three stars (good) and four stars (excellent). The albums are already released unless otherwise noted.

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