Recording information: Rolling Mojo Studios, Atlanta, GA; South Side Studios, Nashville, TN; Voodrew Room, Nashville, TN.
Neo-soul singer/songwriter Anthony David's As Above So Below is his third studio album, following 2004's Three Chords & the Truth and 2006's The Red Clay Chronicles (and not including 2008's Acey Duecy, a major-label compilation drawn from those two, and The Setup, a live EP released earlier in 2011). It's a curious combination of romantic and political material, all set to the quiet, steady beats and acoustic rhythm guitar of the singer's chosen style. On the one hand, David is very much concerned with politics. On "Reach Ya," he weighs in on the health care debate, making this probably one of the few songs to use the phrase "pre-existing condition." "God Said" finds the singer speaking in the voice of a religious zealot whose "imaginary friend" tells him how to behave. And he wraps up this mini-set of social issues with a cover of Tears for Fears' "Everybody Wants to Rule the World." His authority as a moral arbiter might be strengthened if his romantic songs were not so concerned with his own infidelity. In "Girlfriend," he unconvincingly puts off other women by mechanically repeating that he has a girlfriend, while "Get Around" is addressed to that girlfriend, to whom he explains that he just isn't the faithful type. He returns to social matters most forcefully at the end with the "ghetto epic" "Backstreet," a cautionary tale of guns and drugs in which the narrator, intent upon murdering a rival, gets the tables turned on him and finds himself singing from beyond the grave. All of this reinforces the title, As Above So Below, which turns out to be an ambitious album that will give listeners quite a few things to think about as they groove with the beats. ~ William Ruhlmann