Sam and Ruby - The Here & The Now (2009)

Sam and Ruby
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After hearing Sam & Ruby's The Here And The Now, there is a temptation to ask, "what are they doing here?" The here is on a site dedicated to soul and R&B music, since much of this Nashville based duo's sound leans more toward country.  You may still be asking that question after the 20th listen - in part because you're still trying to figure out why Soultracks should review a country album and in part because The Here And The Now is an excellent record. The album's quality ought to be reason enough.

Sam Brooker and Ruby Amanfu know what their music sounds like. I'm sure they knew what musical genres constitute the majority of albums that get reviewed on SoulTracks.com, and they sent it anyway. While the duo's music may not be classified as soul or R&B, Sam & Ruby make soulful music. By that I mean the duo makes music that is honest and heartfelt.

After hearing Sam & Ruby's The Here And The Now, there is a temptation to ask, "what are they doing here?" The here is on a site dedicated to soul and R&B music, since much of this Nashville based duo's sound leans more toward country.  You may still be asking that question after the 20th listen - in part because you're still trying to figure out why Soultracks should review a country album and in part because The Here And The Now is an excellent record. The album's quality ought to be reason enough.

Sam Brooker and Ruby Amanfu know what their music sounds like. I'm sure they knew what musical genres constitute the majority of albums that get reviewed on SoulTracks.com, and they sent it anyway. While the duo's music may not be classified as soul or R&B, Sam & Ruby make soulful music. By that I mean the duo makes music that is honest and heartfelt.

And truth be told, the record's cover art might prompt the Wal-Mart or Best Buy employees to stock the record in the R&B section. Brooker is a white guy from Wisconsin and Amanfu is a black woman who hails from Ghana. And we know that black people don't sing country - even in post-racial Barack Obama America (Charley Pride, Cleve Francis and Ray Charles notwithstanding).

Brooker and Amanfu met in Nashville. Amanfu heard Brooker sing at a club, and decided that she wanted to work with him. And after hearing Brooker's feathery tenor on the beautiful "Ain't Love Something," it's easy to see why Amanfu wanted to work with Brooker. His vocals combine the sophistication of Harry Connick, Jr. with the honesty of James Taylor.  "Ain't Love Something" is also a track that shows how a great song can transcend genre. The arrangement and tempo brings to mind some of the Great American Songbook tunes of the first half of the 20th Century. I wouldn't be surprised to see some jazz artist work this song over.

"Sarah" is another song that reminds listeners that the boundaries between country and soul are often blurry and easily crossed.  Like many great country songs, "Sarah" tells a story. In this case, the story is about a letter that the aforementioned Sarah found while rifling through her lover's car. Sarah thinks the letter is to her, Amanfu melodically informs Sarah that the letter is intended for the man's wife. The song begins with Amanfu's vocal being accompanied by an acoustic guitar as Amanfu sings about how Sarah shows her the letter. Amanfu sings the letter's content - her vocals and the guitar are joined by what sounds like a Hammond B 3 organ. Then, the song changes tempo with the third verse and becomes a straight up R&B song. Amanfu makes the adjustment vocally and becomes an R&B singer.

Duets are the true test of whether chemistry exists between a male and female vocalist. Brooker and Amanfu pass with flying colors on mid-tempo tunes "This I Know" and "Too Much," the ballad "More" and acoustic "Need Me Less."  I think the one thing we learned from President Obama is that we need to let people pursue their dream. I'm sure the president got his share of "yeah, rights" when he told people he wanted to be president. I'd also wager than a black woman from Ghana didn't get a whole lot of encouragement when people realized that she sounded a lot like Dolly Parton. Goes to show what we know. Highly Recommended.

By Howard Dukes

 
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