"It's one beneath the radar. It's not blatant; it's just good." Georgia-bred artist Anthony David says, describing "Something About You," a late-'80s hit by U.K. band Level 42 that he covers on his forthcoming major-label debut, Acey Duecy. For the 50,000 owners of David's two independent releases 3 Chords & The Truth and Red Clay Chronicles, it's also an apt description of the soul singer's music. With the June 26 release of Acey Ducey – a compilation of material from his independent CDs to be released on longtime collaborator India.Arie's new Songbird label via Universal Republic – David hopes to register on more radars.
"Fans' conversation was, 'You need to be on a bigger label,' and, 'More people need to hear this,'" David says, summing up his hometown support. "So in that sense, I'm giving them [and] all of us what we want, for more people to hear these songs."
On Acey Duecy, there's nothing over-the-top in David's approach. His voice isn't pretty, but it doesn't need to be. On selections such as "Cheating Man" and "Cold Turkey," there's something so exquisitely pained in his gravelly tone, so yearning, that all you hear is what he wants you to feel. Whether it's "Smoke One" or "Kinfolks," David opens his mouth and instantly becomes the country uncle, the front-porch drinking buddy, that no-good ex you keep letting back in.
Always one for the personal touch, he titled the project Acey Duecy after his nickname and as an expression of his contrasting acoustic and R&B sides. Few male artists sell sincerity and authenticity better. Fewer still allow themselves to be as vulnerable with their audience as David.
"You kind of owe it to people on at least one record to bare yourself," he says, "to say, 'This is me, and this is not the coolest part of me.'"
He also hushes any concerns fans may have about him losing his down-home authenticity to mass marketing now that he's getting major-label push.
"There's just some things I'm not going to do. I'm looking forward to reaching the higher-minded aspect of people," he assures, "not the stupid part."
Anthony David performs at his CD release. $15. Sat., June 28. 9 p.m. Center Stage, 1374 W. Peachtree St. www.centerstage-atlanta.com.
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