Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

Bill Withers: Just As I Am [Sussex, 1971]
With faultness production from Booker T.--even the strings are taut--this is an unusually likable and listenable middlebrow soul LP. As befits a strummer of acoustic guitars, Withers is more folk than pop, and when he adds folk seriousness to a gospel fervor surprising in such an apparently even-tempered man, he makes titles like "I'm Her Daddy" and "Better Off Dead" take on overtones of radical protest where other singers would descend into bathos. I don't find that even standout cuts like "Ain't No Sunshine" and "Grandma's Hands" reach out and grab me, but except for a letdown toward the end of side two the flow sustains. A-