March 6th, 2007
Elisabeth Withers’ debut R&B album is organic. Rarely do you hear the synthesizers and digitalized instrumental ensembles that dominate most music today. It can Happen to Anyone is refreshing because Withers’ use of electric bass and strings demonstrates the beauty of simplicity, not to mention her background in Broadway. Portraying the free spirited Shug Avery in the musical version of Alice Walker’s The Color Purple, Withers ventures outside of this arena into the music world with the same charisma.
“Simple Things,” the first track on the album, pays homage to the smaller things of life that bring joy, like smiling and waking up in the morning. The chorus, a chastisement for wasting time and energy on stressful situations in life, rounds out with a new found appreciation for the overlooked small pleasures in life. “Next to You,” the last song on the album, compliments “Simple Things” by adding love and affection to the simple things equals happiness equation. Withers describes the affection for her lover as childlike—pure and blissful—and unpolluted by the strife of life and adulthood. Withers also discusses sexuality and the challenge to love one’s self in “The World Ain’t Ready,” telling the story of a lesbian’s desire to please her father by marrying a man she does not love. The track, very delicately delivered but powerfully honest, is one of the strongest songs on the album.
The cuts “Get Your Shoes On” and what sounds like its sequel, “Sweat,” throw the flow of the album off track. Both songs are a mediocre attempt to appeal to a more contemporary audience, but the lyrics and music suffer. The content of these tracks, with a focus on clubbing and celebrities, temporarily lose the purity of Withers’ sound. There is no distinction here from other R&B party jams about the same subjects.
Overall, It can Happen to Anyone offers a breath of fresh air for comtemporary R&B, placing Withers in the company of songbirds like India.Arie and Erika Badu. The majority of the songs on the CD tell an individual story but are also interconnected with the rest of the album, requiring a special talent that Withers easily displays. Her natural, unforced lyrical flow and delivery are relaxing and pleasant to the ear. Withers’ debut album has substance and delivers food for the soul.
Posted by Regina N. Barnett
Review Genre(s): Rhythm & Blues, Soul, Funk