Former India.Arie backup singer and duet partner Anthony David has one of the most distinctive voices in contemporary R&B. There’s a soothing quality about the way he uses his grainy tenor tones to gently navigate his melismatic material. He’s been likened to Seventies soul man Bill Withers, but on As Above, So Below, the acoustic guitar that marked his three earlier releases and contributed to that comparison largely takes a backseat to the heavily synthesized production and stilted percussion programming of Shannon Sanders.
Aside from Tears for Fears‘ “Everybody Wants to Rule the World,” delivered as a duet with his cousin, Shawn Stockman of Boyz II Men, the Georgia soul crooner penned all the tunes on the disc. David’s subjects range from romance and religion to politics and crime. I’ve never been totally faithful/to be brutally honest, I don’t know if I’m able, he admits on “Get Around,” a triplet-driven old-school ballad with “ice cream” changes. On “Reach Out,” he contrasts a rich man who has politicians in his pocket with a terminal cancer victim who has to hide her preexisting condition in order to get health insurance. The closing “Backstreet” is the set’s most satisfying selection. With just his voice and guitar, David delivers a gripping tale about a man who uses a gun to rob a drug dealer, but instead gets shot himself. The choices you make, he concludes, can make or break you. (E1 Entertainment/Purpose Music Group)