Saturday, February 11, 2017
Album Review :: Rag'N'Bone Man - Human
February 10 2017 (Columbia)
Words: Alison Mack
Rory Graham, in his alter ego as hip-hop blues purveyor Rag’n’Bone Man, is something of the man of the moment. It's come a little late, for the 32-year-old who has been 15 years-odd mastering his repertoire before winning the BRIT’s Critics’ Choice Award. 'Human' struck gold in single form for him last year, and now the former rapper brings his soul blend drawn through a blues and gospel net, to bear on this full debut album.
The title track is obviously the standout of the collection, with the smooth ambient jazz refrain of 'Innocent Man', the brass underpinning of piano ballad 'Skin' and the slow-burning 'Bitter End' coming up behind it. But while there are hooks hanging in abundance and the choruses are big, and production - by Jonny Coffer, Mark Crew, and Two Inch Punch - is classy, the 12-track album is let down after the first four songs (save for the powerful vocals and sweet gospel melodies of 'Odetta'); 'Grace' and 'Ego', for example, both drag despite the former's piano urgency to move along and the latter's trumpet blast
The a cappella closing track 'Die Easy', however, while being a reworked traditional American song, its deliverance by the West Sussex man who has never been near the Mississippi Delta in his life, does it no disservice and brings home both the essence of Graham's 'human' blues heart.