Ruarri Joseph's album, Tales of Grime and Grit is a little bit Jack Johnson, a little bit Bob Dylan and a little bit of something new. The album as a whole is very hard to sum up, it's a great package of diverse tunes held together with some great lyrics and a voice that creates a smooth connection between the tracks. There's a prevailing theme of personal experience and family behind Tales, reflected in the performance which never feels as if it leaves the sitting room. Ruarri could well be sitting there, guitar in hand, playing on your sofa.
To understand the album, you really need to break it down into individual songs. The first track, Patience, might lead you to believe the album could be another in a long line of melancholy meanderings like so many other artists, but this preconception is shattered by the wonderful, Johnsonesque Won't Work. This has to be a single, it's both catchy and thought-provoking.
The background to the interestingly-named Blankets has a sort of 70s tambourine feel (think Kinks), yet contains some undiluted emotional lyrics as Stipe or Vedder might have penned. Then a change of pace again for the next track, Early Morning Remedy, a deliberately drunken sounding chorus of addiction which contains a serious message in a less than serious way.
The next two tracks are like mirrors of each other, Baby Finn tells of the thoughts going through a new parent's mind, while Cuddles seems to have a double identity about relationships, innocent on the outside but containing something possibly darker.
The title track is much harsher and feels more raw than anything else on this album, especially next to Infant eyes, another song that provides a welcome revisit to the feelings of Baby Finn. In fact, this track should come with a warning if you're a parent, it will make you melt.
Faces seems to be a personal grudge, something to get off his chest, and it shows in the darker sound produced here. Then we bounce back to a blues sound with a hummable chorus in Relying on Lying. More Rock n' Roll is very Dylan (with an English accent and suitable English statement to match) and the album culminates in Summercourt Fair 1995, a look back at youth.
Ruarri Joseph seems to be at his best when singing about home life and the happier times, these are the standout tracks. But it's refreshing in this day and age to come across an album so varied in feeling and yet held together with a great voice and wonderful sentiment.