Avery Sunshine – Four Song & A Bootleg
It’s stating the obvious to say that Avery*Sunshine is a relationship singer, but I’m not trying to uncover some deep mystery. On Four Songs & a Bootleg, her latest album, the relationships that she has with the love of her life, her God, with the constant struggle to remain motivated, and with her adopted hometown of Atlanta – just to name a few – serve as the connective tissue that bind what could have been a disjointed album together.
In one sense, Four Songs & a Bootleg is two projects: The ‘first’ consists of studio recordings of four new songs, while the ‘second’ finds Sunshine performing live in Atlanta. The live tracks allow those who have never been to an Avery*Sunshine show to experience what makes this artist one of indie soul’s most popular performers – stellar vocals that are deeply influenced by her church background both in her hometown of Chester, Pa. and in Atlanta and her energetic and engaging stage presence.
Getting that personality tocome through on a live recording can be difficult, but Sunshine establishes a connection with the crowd that can be heard in her ad libs on songs like “Come Do Nothing” or the stories that she tells as she introduces tunes such as “Pining,” a track feature on her 2010 self-titled debut album.
Sunshine is performing in front of a ‘hometown’ crowd that includes friends from church, her time at Spelman College (where she did her undergrad studies), and those that she’s met during her 30 year stay in the ATL. So, the show has a ‘we’re at home, kick off your heels and chill,’ type of vibe where she can tell a story about husband and guitar player Dana Johnson ‘pining’ for some Popeye’s spicy chicken after weeks eating bread and cheese drinking wine in Europe, and then take her audience to church with three praise and worship songs that end the album.
Avery has the chops to end the record with her stirring performance of gospel standards such as “Blessing Me,” “Safe In His Arms” and “(I Want to) Praise Him.” Her live work showcases her work as an excellent lyrical storyteller. That comes through best on “Lucky,” which is also one of the songs she performed live.
“Lucky” starts with the premise that when two people come together to form a relationship and become a single entity, they still have two distinct stories. Both people have histories that can be, let’s say, a bit dramatic. If you come out of something bad – or maybe a bit interesting – and find yourself in a good situation, you’re probably going to be a bit appreciative. You’re might find yourself singing your new bae’s praises to high heavens, and it can be extremely easy to forget you aren’t exactly chopped liver.
Avery*Sunshine’s range as a singer comes through on the tender track “Boomerang.” Vocally, Avery is a dynamo, as anyone who listens to her tear through those gospel numbers can attest. “Boomerang” finds Avery adopting a sweet and conversational tone that finds her singing over an arrangement that features flourishes from a Harmon muted trumpet and Johnson’s acoustic guitar and finds her hoping for the return of a friend or family member who she might have taken for granted. “Four Songs & a Bootleg” is a project that showcases all of Avery*Sunshine’s virtues. Recommended.
By Howard Dukes