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album review: rumer, boys don’t cry


The conceit of Rumer’s (née Sarah Joyce) album Boys Don’t Cry, is simple—it’s a cover album of lesser-known songs from the seventies by male artists.  Rumer’s deep vocals inhabit each track fully, imbuing every song with a bittersweet strength.  The selection of tracks is such that each complements another and is done with care, to prevent her treatment from seeming like a gimmick. Rather, what emerges is a meditation upon life and love, which reveals the universal applicability of themes approached by male artists in the past.

The first track, ‘Welcome Back’, sets the album up in good and melodic stead.  A melancholy rumination is found in ‘Just for a Moment’, which sees Rumer lament that “just for a moment, I was complete”.  In one of the album’s highlights, Rumer’s voice soars in ‘Brave Awakening’, describing the ramifications upon a town and its people upon the closing of the mine.  ‘Be Nice to Me’ is another track demonstrating Rumer’s mastery of her airy vocals, while ‘Home Thoughts from Abroad’ does an excellent job handling Clifford T. Ward’s lyrics.  ‘Flyin’ Shoes’ is a track noteworthy for capitalising upon the use of instrumentals such as harmonica, piano and guitar, to good effect. As its name suggests, ‘Soulsville’ echoes soul music in low-key homage, and comfortably exercises Rumer’s vocal range.  ‘It Could be the First Day’ is another great track, and sees Rumer’s voice working magic with the lyrics and cruisey backing track—it’s short and poignant, and would have been a great cap to the record.

As to be expected of a 13-strong album, not every track hits it out of the park. ‘Sara Smile’ is one of the more lacklustre efforts in the album, as the jazzy backing instrumentals jar somewhat and don’t mesh as comfortably with the vocals.  And in a record of commendable songs, ‘The Same Old Tears on a New Background’ is unremarkable. Regrettably the final track ‘P. F. Sloan’ isn’t especially memorable either—it would have been better switched.  It’s not that any of the covers are offensive; merely that the superior quality of the other tracks illuminates the struggle these particular songs have in meshing with this interpretation.

Indisputably however, Boys Don’t Cry is a winner.  The record is lovely and deceptively soothing while subtly reinvigorating the material chosen.  Rumer’s mellow voice gently directs the show while letting each original track resonate on its own terms.  This folksy and unassuming album is one of those that you can put on at any time and find it suits—and I intend to do so.

By Alix Foley

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