The Canadian Maritimes aren't necessarily known for producing A-list blues acts, but over a decade's worth of quality releases and heavy touring have made New Brunswick's Matt Andersen into one of the nation's more reliable performers. For the follow-up to his Juno-nominated 2014 album Weightless, the powerhouse singer teamed up with veteran R&B producer Commissioner Gordon (Amy Winehouse, Joss Stone) in New York to record Honest Man. Throughout Andersen's career, his roots-oriented approach has included elements of blues, folk, soul, rock, and country, so a venture into the R&B world seems like it should be a fairly natural progression for him. Opening track "Break Away" is buoyantly funky with a tight beat and an uplifting message that suits his warm, friendly voice. The title cut is another funky affair with a nice interlocking B-3 and horn groove that really sets the tone for the album's direction. One of the most noticeable things about Honest Man is Gordon's use of programmed beats, samples, and synths to propel the songs. While Andersen's prior recordings could never be accused of having a low production value, the added studio gloss here feels a bit too extreme. As a performer, he's the kind of guy who can captivate a room with just an acoustic guitar and that big, comforting voice. Part of Andersen's appeal as both a singer and a songwriter is how relatable he seems, and this slick new setting doesn't quite do him justice. There are a few exceptions like the dark piano ballad "I'm Giving In" and "Last Surrender" with its vintage Stax vibe, but overall, this foray into shiny studio pop is a bit of a stumble.
AllMusic Review by Timothy Monger