Rumer and sigh: British songwriter's inspired debut arrives on American shores not a moment too soon.
Rumer caused more than a little stir in England when this album emerged in 2010’s fading light. Jools Holland and Elton John were early converts and Burt Bacharach himself has also waxed enthusiastic about the newcomer. Of course, elder statesmen singing a younger artist’s praises does as much for the profile of the former as it does for the latter; thus, the real question, at the end of the record, is this: Is it any good? The answer is, resoundingly, this: Yes.
Rumer’s gained comparisons to Karen Carpenter, and while those hold weight, the other spirit presiding over most of these 11 tracks (save “Goodbye Girl”) is none other than Dusty Springfield. Seasons Of My Soul shares the spirit and spark heard on Dusty In Memphis but has even more depth. Having written or co-written––and rather beautifully at that––all but one of the songs here, Rumer shows a remarkable––and remarkably pure––emotional range.
There’s plenty of springy ‘60s sounds, including “Am I Forgiven?”, one of the many here that would not have sounded out of place on classic AM radio, or “Take Me As I Am”, which has what is arguably the best vocal performance across the 11 songs. “Aretha”, meanwhile, isn’t so much an artist-to-artist celebration as it is a tale about the healing power of music, chronicling the lonely life of a girl living in poverty whose main connection with the outside world is the Queen of Soul. If the listener doesn’t immediately identify with all the narrative details, Rumer makes us believe that we’ve lived in this girl’s skin and walked in her raggedy shoes by the time the final chord fades––the mark of an accomplished writer and performer to be sure.
Elsewhere, “Healer” never rises or falls in expected ways as the vocalist shows utter restraint in the choruses, under playing the emotions at critical moments and thus yielding maximum impact. The plaintive, jazz-inflected “Thankful” calls to mind Joni Mitchell circa For The Roses and is sure to become a standard for the current generation, as it’s deftly composed and performed with perfection. “Come To Me High”, a sliver of a song, at just under three minutes sounds like a hazy, prolonged kiss, a brief but memorable burst of intimacy and unadulterated emotions.
While the record maintains a strong sense of uniformity, it never lapses into monotony, thanks largely to the poetic turns of songs such as “Blackbird” and “Slow” but also Rumer’s consistently powerful performances which culminate in a singular and impressive artistic statement.
If there’s a weak moment here it may be “Goodbye Girl”, the David Gates composition, on which Rumer sounds perhaps the most like the aforementioned Karen Carpenter. It’s not that the track smacks of cloying sentimentality, as it can in less capable hands, but that it feels tacked on, ever-so-slightly but nevertheless significantly different than the original material––although not enough that it detracts from Seasons Of My Soul’s overall power.
It’s hard to know why this album and the artist behind it were so slow in coming to the North American market but surely there is a wise and waiting audience for this most unique and impressive talent. May her moment not be now but forever.