Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Sam & Ruby - The Here And The Now

The Here And The Now
This Album is about two artists’ pursuits of stardom.

Ruby Amanfu was born in Ghana but raised in a devoutly Christian home in Nashville, TN  from the time she was three years old.  In her home exclusively heard and sang Christian and classical music. Her awakening to jazz, blues, folk and rock all started when a friend gave her a Madonna album “Like A Prayer.”

Don’t let her inauspicious introduction to contemporary sound confuse you.  Ruby can sing.  She is a bright, wispy soprano with natural vibrato. It makes perfect sense that Madonna would lead her out of the narrow confines prescribed by a religious life.  Madonna’s musical message was simply the opposite of all the parochial, moralistic, subservient messages in Christian music.  It opened whole new vistas of awareness, opportunity and possibility.  

Sam Brooker hails from Green Bay, Wisconsin where he was fed James Taylor, and a stew of funk - Parliament, Booty’s Rubber Band and Prince.  In high school he formed a local cover band that kept him employed through college.  He came to Nashville and recorded a bad demo CD. However, a studio did like his voice and helped him record a better one.  While in Nashville he attended Ruby’s shows and they became friends.  Sam then moved to New York to try his hand at a solo career.

While Sam was in New York Ruby had a Top 40 British Pop Chart hit called “Sugah.” Unfortunately, she also had a falling out with her record label that left her in Nashville without a contract.  Sam returned to Nashville and, in or about 2005, Sam & Ruby became working as a duo. Each started asking the other to come up and sing with them at their gigs.  The audiences responded to the duets so they started to write music together.  This CD “The Here and The Now” is their debut album.

The album sports a number of well-known session musicians including drummer Chad Cromwell (Joe Walsh and songwriting collaborator with Neil Young and Mark Knopfler); bassist  Mark Hill (Art Garfunkel, Kenny Loggins, Carrie Underwood Keith Urban) (one of three well-known session bassists on the CD); keyboard player Tony Harrell (Brooks & Dunn, Keith Urban, Waylon Jennings, Kris Kristofferson, Hank Williams Jr.) Cellist Claire Indie (Mat Kearney, Taylor Swift); Violin player Zach Casebolt (Ray Price); trumpeteer Steve Patrick (Maynard Ferguson, Matchbox 20, Elton John); and Saxophonist Sam Levine (Henry Mancini, the Neville Brothers, Michael McDonald.)  With this cadre of elite professionals Sam & Ruby try to turn their simple melodies and lyrics into hit songs.

Back in the day there was always an artist or album that you would put on if you got your date back to your place.  It was usually something romantic and sexy to set the mood.  On went Sam Cooke, a little Barry White; some Luther Vandross.  The equivalent today I guess would be a smidgeon of John Mayer, a squeeze of James Blunt, a shake of Shakira, a side of Norah Jones or a wisp of Madeline Peyroux.  The whole of “The Here And The Now” is that type of album.  It is one you can reach for when you hope to get your partner in the mood for a game of kissy face.

There are a number of songs that are stand-outs.  By far, the song likely to garner the largest audience is the second track. “This I Know” is both haunting and familiar.  It tells a story of lover hurting lover and second chances all due to love.  It is the one song I would expect to hear on every contemporary rock, R&B and jazz radio station late on a Saturday night.  It is a perfect fit for the Bay Area’s KBLX - the Quiet Storm radio station’s playlist.

The one criticism I do have is that some of their songs on the CD seem written to mimic the styles of other successful contemporary artists.  Thus, at times Sam & Ruby strain to fit themselves into the music.  This is their debut album so I would expect this “imitation is the sincerest form of flattery” mentality to dissipate.  What will be left is beautiful and unique. The Here And The Now is a good first start.  I expect them only to get better. This is definitely a duo to watch with the lights down low.  I fully expect that stardom will no elude them for much longer.

-  Old School

Buy here: The Here And The Now



 

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