Rag'n'Bone Man: Human review – like Joe Cocker singing over Moby

(Columbia)

This year’s Brits critics’ choice winner Rag’n’Bone Man, AKA Rory Graham, has already scored a No 2 smash with the grittily soulful Human, which pairs his urban blues holler with a fat, bass-driven groove that reflects his time served in DIY hip-hop. The heartfelt, anthemic Skin is similarly big-lunged, while Be the Man and As You Are serve up contemporary gospel. At his most gravel-throated, Rag’n’Bone Man is reminiscent of Joe Cocker singing over the chunkier bits of Moby’s chart-steamrollering Play.

A shame, then, that Human loses its way. There’s too much bland, Identikit retro soul, the tasteful production becomes stifling, and the lyrics tip from heartfelt and personal into cliched and overwrought. Thankfully, there are still times when he cuts loose. Ego is a duet of sorts between his bluesman and rapper personas. In the striking Die Easy, sung a capella, he sounds like a lost Mississippi bluesman howling at mortality, rather than a hotly tipped 32-year-old from East Sussex.

Contributor

Dave Simpson

The GuardianTramp

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