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Ruarri Joseph - Brother

  by Malcolm Carter

published: 31 / 10 / 2013

Ruarri Joseph - Brother
Label: ACP Recordings
Format: CD


Fantastic fourth album from Cornish-based singer-songwriter Ruarri Joseph, which improves with each new listening

Never give up on a good thing. Warner Music obviously haven’t as Cornish residence Ruarri Joseph’s fourth album, ‘Brother’, first saw the light of day a year ago, and which is now, no doubt helped by a well-received acoustic performance at the Glastonbury Festival this year, being given an extra push by Warner Music as Joseph embarks on a tour of the UK. If any album deserves another chance, it’s ‘Brother’. Joseph was born in Edinburgh, Scotland and as a youngster moved around quite a lot, even spending time in New Zealand, before finally deciding to return to England and trying his luck with music in London. Joseph’s first album, ‘Tales of Grime and Grit’, was released in 2007 on Atlantic Records, but although warmly received Joseph soon jumped ship. With his next album 2009’s ‘Both Sides of the Coin’, Joseph took total control and impressively played all the instruments at home where he made the album. He released his third album, ‘Shoulder to the Wheel’, a year later on his own label Pip Productions, which attracted the attention of Radio Two who playlisted ‘Orchard for an Apple’, the single taken from the album. Possibly one of the effects of moving around so much during his formative years is that along the way Joseph has developed a singing voice that, while in places with eyes tightly shut, could be mistaken for a grittier Ron Sexsmith, is fairly unique. It’s an inviting sound, and somewhere deep in the back roads of your memory you’ll recognise it but will fail to actually remember where from. It’s one of those voices that although you feel has been there all your life is refreshingly new. With his outstanding vocals Joseph could sing almost anything and still have a captive audience. The fact that he hangs thoughtful lyrics on instantly likeable bittersweet melodies is what makes ‘Brother’ a great collection of songs rather than just another set of good singer/songwriter tunes. ‘Brother’ is the first album Joseph has recorded with a full band since his debut six years ago, but far from crowding his songs with unnecessary musical flourishes the delicate, sympathetic additions by his fellow musicians actually pull more emotion not just from each song but, in many cases, each line. The strings-drenched ‘Anyway’, for example, benefits greatly from their addition. The song shifts from a touching tribute to a friend (The album was written after the loss of a close friend in 2010, but don’t expect a desolate set of tunes. There’s hope and light surrounding these songs) into a soaring, heartfelt ending so genuinely moving and lifting you’ll feel the need to join in. Initial plays of ‘Brother’ indicated that Joseph had lost the way a little in the middle section of the album; the opening song, ‘Roses and Ashes’, is one of the best on the album. Joseph’s melancholy vocals are lightened by beautiful background vocals, the melody is simply captivating and the unexpected electric guitar flourishes that weave in and out are a touch of genius. When the following song, ‘Till the Luck Runs Dry’, proves to be every bit the equal of the opening song you can’t help but think that you’ve stumbled on something really special. Even the third song, ‘Got My Share’, in which Joseph takes an edgier stance, the beauty in his melodies and those outstanding vocals still manage to shine through, and with the band backing him so sympathetically it’s another highlight. But halfway through the album ‘Cry On World’, despite boasting some of the most touching and honest lyrics on the album, initially leaves you cold. Given a stripped-back accompaniment after what has gone before is possibly one reason that this song lacks the impact of the previous songs. While the following ‘The April Sun’ introduces the band again the song again feels to have lost the sparkle of those opening four songs, and, although ‘No More Sins’ takes Joseph’s music in another direction to keep things interesting, the song also seems a little out of place. ‘Mad World Waiting’ brings the album back on track, Joseph and band gelling as one in a solid country/folk offering before the aforementioned ‘Anyway’ and the equally affecting title track close the collection as it started with excellent songs. But ‘Brother’ is one of those albums that you just feel you have to stick with, the one that you go to for a number of reasons, one that you know you can rely on to connect with on a number of different levels and after a few plays that middle section starts to make sense. Suddenly the minimal backing on ‘Cry On World' fits Joseph’s lyrics. You really wouldn’t want to have other instruments taking anything away from those heartfelt vocals, ‘The April Sun’ reveals, in time, to be the hidden gem of the album. Joseph’s vocals really are outstanding here. The laid-back vibe that the band creates compliments those vocals so well you wonder why this track didn’t grab you the first time you heard it. So, although the first few plays would indicate that the album dips slightly halfway through, the fact is that by taking the time to let that clutch of songs sink in you are rewarded with ten songs that you will still be playing this time next year. Which many are already doing. ‘Brother’ is an important album in Joseph’s musical career, possibly his most personal set of songs to date and certainly the best set. The album, although so obviously close to his heart, will also touch all who get the chance to hear it. It’s also one of those albums that improves with each listen. Although those opening songs are instantly likeable by the time you’ve lived with all the songs a while you’ll wonder how you managed without ‘Brother’ in your life.

Track Listing:-
1 Roses & Ashes
2 Until the Luck Runs Dry
3 Got My Share
4 A Good Thing Fallen
5 Cry On World
6 The April Spin
7 No More Sins
8 Mad World Waiting
9 Anyway
10 Brother
11 All I Got
12 Settle In (All Around)

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