Commanding, luscious and drizzled with soul, Rory Graham’s debut album Human manifests as a playground for his dynamic and driving vocal range. Otherwise known as Rag ‘n’ Bone Man, the Brighton-born singer-songwriter plucks seeds of influence from a concoction of soul, blues and hip hop artists, dipping into and fusing together these genres to create a record washed with grit, conviction and elegance.
‘Skin’ and ‘Innocent Man’ glisten with lavish, soulful vocals and powerful harmonies, each propelled by a strong gospel flavour that continues to resonate throughout the album. A palette of wistful string sections drift and coil around rich vocals ridden with assurance. The violins and cellos gradually swell and thrive, taunting and teasing the tone skyward into a series of graceful crescendos. These peaks aren’t always satisfactorily reached, however, and there are moments that do not appear to be explored with the depth, variation or imagination that is perhaps desired.
The overall tone occasionally dips in confidence, and retreats into bleaker realms of lyrical content. ‘Bitter End’ sways away from the album’s uplifting gospel trend and hones in on a darker, more sombre mood, unveiling a little more of Graham’s versatility. His husky, raw voice saunters and struts along, accompanied by sullen synths and polished harmonies.
Sophisticated and refined, Rag ‘n’ Bone Man’s raw, coarse vocals boast a unique beauty, guiding a cluster of string and brass ensembles throughout the album. With components that work seamlessly together for the most part, it appears that Human falters through the lack of focus and expansion, its direction ambling off down one too many lanes.
Words by Madeline Smith