THE EDITED PRESS RELEASE: “Lauren Anderson isn’t shy about sharing her influences. Indeed, there have been any number of classic and contemporary artists that have left an indelible impression on the musical mantra she’s pursued over the course of her career — Bonnie Raitt, Etta James, Eva Cassidy, Nina Simone, Whitney Houston, Beyonce and The Pointer Sisters, among them. Yet, at the same time, Anderson isn’t bound to any particular parameters. Instead she’s managed to incorporate those influences into a pursuit of her own passion. It’s a musical journey that continues to flourish, bringing her growing recognition as a celebrated singer and songwriter with her own contemporary credence.
That trajectory has accelerated rapidly over the course of the past seven years with the release of three EPs — Do & Hope, The Game and Won’t Stay Down — and her first full-length album, 2015’s Truly Me. In the meantime, the accolades have kept coming. She was named the 2015 Female Vocalist of the Year by the Midwest Music Awards, took a first-place finish in the 2018 Wing Dang Doodle Competition and watched with pride as The Game became entrenched in the Top 50 of the Billboard Blues chart five weeks in a row.
Anderson has expanded her following while reaping critical acclaim. A determined dynamo of a performer adept at both blues and ballads, she’s ready to add to those accolades with her latest album Love On the Rocks, her most fully realized effort to date. It finds her expounding on the soulful, seductive style that allows her to break down the boundaries between rock, blues and classic R&B. Not surprisingly then, the new album fully reflects her own singular sound, courtesy of a varied set of songs that mostly draw from her own experience. Seven of the nine tracks were written during the pandemic, when Anderson claims she wrote a song a day for three weeks in a row.
Keep On, the first of the singles, is a wailing and riveting gospel-sounding entry. It was accompanied by a music video that included stark images of the pandemic. She describes the stoic yet soulful Stand Still as a more Americana-sounding song, but the message resonates as well. “It’s about what it feels like when you’re stuck and not going anywhere,” Anderson says. “Still, that’s okay when you’re there with someone you love.”
Anderson calls Love on the Rocks, a co-write with Sandy Ramos and Laureen Smith, a true collaborative effort. “I came up with the chorus, but then I got stuck so I brought it to those two ladies and together we finished the song,” she recalls. “Ironically, this was the last song I chose to include on this album, and when the band and I went into the studio, we had yet to run through it together at that point. I wasn’t sure how it would sound with the full band, but as soon as everyone started jamming on it, it came alive. I chose to make it the title track, and it quickly became one of my favorite songs on the album.”
The subtle yet sensual Holdin’ Me Down falls under the category of a breakup song. “I sent my guys an acoustic version, and when we got together to run through it before going into the studio, Hutch, my bassist, came with this badass guitar part,” Anderson explains. “It really solidifies the soulful ’90s-sounding R&B vibe that the song seemed to call for.”
Other highlights include Back to Chicago, a performance that combines Anderson’s robust vocals and a sassy, soulful strut with some ripping fretwork from special guest and guitar great Mike Zito. I’m Done and Just F***ing Begun are propulsive rockers that allow the energy to soar into the stratosphere. On the other hand, the easy sway of The Way I Want and the resilient resolve implied by Your Turn help provide a decided shift in tone and tempo. “This album is very true to me,” Anderson reflects. “I was trying to consciously choose songs for this album that worked well together. I definitely feel like I pulled from some of my seminal influences and was able to find them a fit on each of these tunes.”