[16 April 2001]
Just the mention of some songs evoke memories of backyard barbecues, back-in-the-day roller skating parties, strolling summer nights with brown-skinned, mocha, pecan-tan, honey-dipped lovelies (a non-gendered reference in my mind)—THICK days and nights filled with possibilities and simple pleasures like the on-coming sound of the Mr. Softee truck or heading to the “piragua” man (he who scrapes blocks of ice, places the scrapings in cone-shaped Dixie cups and drowns them in the oh too sweet juices of cherry and tamarind). McFadden and Whitehead’s “Ain’t No Stoppin’ Us Now” and Chic’s “Good Times” (both from 1979), Run-DMC’s “Sucker MCs” (1983), “It Takes Two” (1988) by Rob Base and EZ Rock with its sample of the Lyn Collins classic “Think (About It)”, Soul II Soul’s “Keep On Movin’”, Mary J’s debut with “You Remind Me” in 1992, Zhane’s “Hey Mr. DJ” (1993) and Maxwell’s “Ascension” (1996) are just a few of the jams of summer’s long past. Perhaps “Heard It All Before”, the lead single from Sunshine Anderson’s debut recording Your Woman will shortly join that list. With its wah-wah groove (dawickita) reminiscent of all those First Choice gems (“Armed and Extremely Dangerous” and “Smarty Pants”) and Anderson’s sassy vocals, which recall those of Betty Wright (“Clean Up Woman”), “Heard It All Before” will likely be a fixture during the summer of 2001. Though Anderson’s debut ultimately doesn’t live up to the excitement of the lead single, Your Woman is a solid release.
A native of Charlotte, North Carolina, Anderson is managed by critical darling Macy Gray, who clearly has not been so blunted that she couldn’t recognize a significant talent in Anderson. Your Woman is the initial release of a California-based startup label called Soul Life, which is distributed through the Atlantic label. Much of Anderson’s recording was written and produced by Soul Life’s A&R director Mike City, whose credits include production on Carl Thomas’s “I Wish” and several tracks from Dave Hollister’s Chicago ‘85…the Movie, including the lead single “One Woman Man”. Anderson herself provides lyrics on a few tracks most notably the lead single and the dreamy “Crazy Love” which also features back-up vocals from Lalah Hathaway (daughter of Donny), who is no doubt deserving of much more exposure than her most recent recording Song Lives On (1999), a coupling with pianist Joe Sample, garnered.
Most of the tracks on Your Woman are bouncy ditties that will not offend those who like to tap their feet while sitting at their PC or doing laundry in the basement such as “Better Off” which opens the recording and the hip-hop-influenced “A Little Sunshine”, which I imagine will be a future single. Though Anderson’s voice is not yet as assured as Mary J. Blige’s there is a distinct “round-the-way” feel to her debut that does recall Blige’s debut What’s the 411? and the recordings of the duo Changing Faces, most powerfully on tracks such as “He Said, She Said”, “Where Have You Been”, and the aforementioned lead single “Heard It All Before”. Other standouts include the bluesy “Lunch or Dinner” and “Being Away”, which is easily the best ballad on a recording dominated by mid-tempo grooves. Overall, Your Woman suggests that Anderson is a talent that will survive past the time when we reflect on her hot summer jam of 2001.