Artist: Elisabeth WithersTitle: It Can Happen to AnyoneRating: 3 1/2 StarsReviewed by: Chris Richburg
Listening to Elisabeth Withers' debut album, It Could Happen to Anyone (Blue Note Records), it's pretty obvious: this is some grown folks' R&B. That could be expected though, considering she earned a Tony Award nomination for her role as Shug Avery in the Broadway adaptation of The Color Purple. Yet there may be those who may compare Withers to fellow theater star turned R&B songstress Heather Headley. While both display soulful stylings, the Joliet, Illinois-born singer/songwriter and former back-up vocalist that is Withers stands alone with an album of songs that invoke memories of how you felt during certain periods in your current (or past) relationships.
This appears most evident on many of the selections featured on the 11-track CD. "Heartstrings" is a soothing, feel good groove outlining the joys of being around someone whose very presence creates a special feeling for the admirer. "Be With You" is strictly for the grown and sexy, as Withers pulls out the stops to illustrate her willingness to indulge in quality time with her lucky man. No matter where you're at in life, the album's title track rings true. "Love don't care because it comes on its own time. It can happen to anyone."
A credit goes to Toby Gad for producing all but one song on the album. From the first track to the last, Gad weaves a soundtrack that provides a way of unwinding and relaxing during a late night or casual Sunday afternoon.
Although Withers stays on the relationship path, she does stray away from the course with mixed results. The most noticeable is "The World Ain't Ready" a motivational ditty about staying true to yourself and loving you, no matter what. Withers crafts her messages around a pair of interesting stories starring two young women who bury their true identities under a facade of tragic escapes.
While that song resonates, the album's uptempo tracks ("Get Your Shoes On" and "Sweat") don't pack the same punch. Even the remake of the Bette Midler hit "Wind Beneath My Wings" falls a little short, despite the smart inclusion of a choir in the background.
Despite these minuses, the album is a solid first effort from Withers, who has the potential to garner a solid following from those yearning for heartfelt lyrics and relaxing melodies. As one of the songs on Withers' album simply states, "Listen." You won't be disappointed.