Rag ‘N’ Bone Man
If there’s one thing about music purists, it’s that their aesthetic pleasure in the art, paired with the connotations of their specific field, lay out a blueprint for sincerity matched with originality. Grounded with reinforcing the importance of a genre’s roots, purists tend to lead us back to what was so special in the first place. Sharon Jones for example, taps into the mystifying versatility of soul and funk and how exploring new sounds while backing the old is a great thing. With Rag ‘N’ Bone Man, a blues artist out of the U.K., we get to see a purist dive into a relatively uncharted blues scene with a hip-hop twist.
The Bluestown EP is a structured surprise, and as it guides the listener with staple blues chants, harmonica twangs and hollering, Rag ‘N’ Bone Man wields an artistic brush to add more so the record doesn’t teeter. “Tell ‘Em Like It Is” might hold the most replay value, with an introduction diving into blues’ misconceptions and later blasting us with an electric guitar swell of melody. The hip-hop influenced sound of this track adds a deeper sense of enlightenment, and if stating how diverse this is gets too redundant then the best thing to do would be to listen yourself. Rag ‘N’ Bone Man’s vocal talent is impressive on first listen, and his range on the mic is as impressive as his range musically. “Way Too Long” and “St. James” feel like deep southern cuts, and “Hi-Heeled Sneakers” nips at the ears with visions of grand balls and red-dressed party goers, as Rag ‘N’ Bone Man touches on loss while filling our heads with hope.
Armed with a guitar, harmonica and his signature gruff voice, Rag ‘N’ Bone Man captures the true essence of the blues. As part of the hard-hitting, alcohol induced British hip-hop collective, Rum Committee, his sound is one part funk, two parts hip-hop and three parts delta blues. His 25 minute EP, Bluestown, is packed full of hip-hop sounds, hip-hop beats, gut-wrenching blues and a sound that will make you reminisce about the past and look to the future. In the end, Bluestown is worth the listen as it is an example of the connection between blues and hip-hop. Beyond that, this EP is the perfect example of what can happen when musical genres are mixed, matched and combined.
As Bluestown opens, we hear the steady pitter-patter of rain against a window and are thrust into the world of Rag ‘N’ Bone Man. This is a place of hardship, pain, substance abuse and death. In true blues fashion, there are moments of optimism and redemption that somehow pervade through themes of struggle and suffering.
Bluestown is short; it is eight songs long and runs for only 25 minutes. However, this EP is filled to the brim with a hard-hitting story of personal struggle that is illustrated perfectly with Rag ‘N’ Bone Man’s voice that is caked in cigarette smoke and drenched in whiskey. From an unbelievable voice, guitar playing, harmonica riffs, hip-hop production and Rum Committee MC’s, this record will have you listening intently from start to finish with how it captures the sorrow of the blues. More than anything else, Bluestown is a record with incredible depth and soul. Just fucking listen to it.