Record Of The Week # 11

March 15, 2017

|Tony Ives

Rag ’n’ Bone Man – Human

On podcasts I had heard Rag n’ Bone Man (Rory Graham) over the last few years but it wasn’t until the release of his album Human, and the accolades rolled in, along with Russell Crowe tweeting about him that I started to take an interest. Fifteen years plying his trade on the English south coast in various guises meant that he’d more than paid his dues when he eventually got in the studio for this project. This experience helps him comfortably interpret a number of styles effortlessly. Rory has a voice that lends itself to soul, rock ballads and the blues. It is a voice that has a gravelly bottom end with a compelling presence and the potential to blow down a building should he choose to let it rip.

What’s a rag and bone man? In post war Britain horse drawn carts used to patrol residential areas collecting scrap and surplus detritus. Originally it had been bones and clothing but latterly it wasn’t unusual to see a poor bedraggled horse lugging metal scrap.

Rory has writing credits on all tracks and given the rock/pop/soul confection then it pleases throughout but there are some highlights over and above the standout Human with its driving beat. Human was co written with the voice behind Ben’s Brother and it explains the quality of the song. Other songs have pop song writing royalty on them but you feel they helped rather than dictated. There must be a word of praise for the production of Mark Crew and Jamie Scott. They really ‘got’ Graham and whilst all the arrangements remain contemporary it is sympathetic and showcases.

Where the backing is simple and he can interpret a great melody then these are the moments when you’d turn it up or tell everyone around you to be quiet. Grace has a piano, guitars and strings in the mix but they compliment each other rather than compete. Skin, has the feel of an Adele song. Against a muffled drum Graham leads the song into a chant and a choir backs him as he opines about love lost. However the one for the multi star rating in my iTunes library will be Die Easy. Anyone bringing straight spine chilling unaccompanied vocal Delta blues music to the top of the charts will always have my attention and devotion.

The big question for Sony will be whether Rory can repeat the success with the next album. Human is a triumph but some great voices have had epic arrivals and then somewhat swift departures – Macy Gray and Duffy come to mind.

(Thanks to Vanessa for giving me the album)

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