fri 26/02/2021

CD: Rag'n'Bone Man - Human | reviews, news & interviews

CD: Rag'n'Bone Man - Human

CD: Rag'n'Bone Man - Human

Debut from already-famous Brighton soul star presses the right buttons

It’s an extraordinary story about a ordinary-seeming guy. No one can accuse the industry of promoting pretty blond teens this time. Rory Graham, the emerging blues-tinged soul star from the deep south – Sussex, of course, or the Uck Delta, perhaps – has built his reputation from the ground up, working as a carer, initially, as he developed the Rag’n’Bone Man persona.

It’s an extraordinary story about a ordinary-seeming guy. No one can accuse the industry of promoting pretty blond teens this time. Rory Graham, the emerging blues-tinged soul star from the deep south – Sussex, of course, or the Uck Delta, perhaps – has built his reputation from the ground up, working as a carer, initially, as he developed the Rag’n’Bone Man persona.

He’s now 32, but even before Rag’n’Bone Man, he learned music by doing it: rapping, MCing in jungle clubs, and singing at blues festivals his dad (who has a big collection of Muddy Waters and BB King) took him to. With a much more diverse musical heritage than many chart-toppers, and more time to assimilate his influences, he has more musical layers than many a breakthrough artist. Whether they all work together is another question.

He radiates the kind of dependable goodwill you’d like to find in an older brother or uncle

The single and title-track “Human” was deservedly dropped down many a chimney over Christmas, and its huge success across Europe as well as UK is largely down to the appealing blend of raw, bluesy vocal tone, sympathetic lyrics and a verse-chorus song structure. “Skin”, another belter, has a similar effect.

His voice is always distinctive, though some of the songs are (effective, but) more conventional ballad material: “Be the Man”, “Arrow” and “Bitter End” could be sung successfully by many different performers. Soul is his subject matter, but blues, gospel and bits of rap run through the mix too. On the less memorable songs, that variety can be rather homogenised. None of these songs is less than pleasant, but only “Human” and “Skin” really stand out. Live, though, he has a charisma that more than matches his substantial physical presence. He radiates the kind of dependable goodwill you’d like to find in an older brother or uncle, while the floor-trembling voice is awesome. Coming to a festival near you, soon.

@matthewwrighter

The single and title-track 'Human' was deservedly dropped down many a chimney over Christmas

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Average: 3 (1 vote)

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