In case, you haven’t heard Rumer, get ready to meet the ghost of Karen Carpenter. Really, it’s almost eerie how much that Rumer sounds like Carpenter, the late, beloved singer of “We’ve Only Just Begun”, “Close to You,” and other 1970s pop hits. Listening to Rumer (whose real name is Sarah Joyce) sing, the warm timbre or her voice, the phrasing; it’s like Karen Carpenter all over again. That comparison side, Rumer is not some sort of lame impersonator whose songs all sound like rehashes of Carpenters classics, but her music certainly does invoke a pleasant feeling of pop nostalgia.
Earlier this year Rumer released her second album, Boys Don’t Cry, a fantastic collection of covers of songs all written and originally performed by male artists in the 1970s. I was pleasantly surprised to find the CD at the Gram shop in Bangkok’s Siam Paragon mall earlier this month. Boys Don’t Cry features fairly well known tunes, such as Daryl Hall & John Oates’ “Sara Smile” and Bob Marley’s “Soul Rebel”, balanced with more obscure compositions from big names such as Leon Russell, Tim Hardin, Richie Havens, Isaac Hayes, and others. Impressively, Rumer didn’t select the “obvious hits” by these artists, but instead sought out album tracks that are less known. Clearly, Rumer did her homework in picking songs that were not only suitable for her voice, but ones that really meant something to her. Hearing her sings these songs, the passion is evident. Perhaps the biggest surprise is the album’s closing number, her cover of Neil Young’s “A Man Needs a Maid.” That may strike many as an odd song for a woman to sing, but Rumer manages to put a new twist on those lyrics and transform the song into something less maudlin.
Besides fine music, another plus to the CD edition of Boys Don’t Cry is the accompanying booklet. In addition to the songwriting credits, each track listing has a cover photo of the album that the original song came from. Very cool touch! Hopefully, this might inspire a listener to seek out the original versions, songs by cool characters such as Townes Van Zandt, Terry Reid, and other fine singer-songwriters from that special era.
Rumer’s 2010 debut album, Seasons of My Soul, was a refreshing and striking blend of original compositions and a handful of covers. Her vocal style had that Karen Carpenter vibe, of course, plus the song arrangements brought to mind the classic Burt Bacharach-penned songs from the 60s and 70s. No annoyingly clunky hip-hop production or other unnecessary contemporary flourishes, just quality pop songs wrapped around a luscious voice with uncluttered arrangements.
Rumer has received lots of favorable press in the UK during the past two years, but sadly, she remains virtually unknown in the USA. Part of that is due to the tardy release of her albums in the states. For some odd reason, her American label has delayed the release of both albums, waiting several months after they’ve been available in the UK to finally make them available. But that practice seems to be par for the course for the clueless corporate clones that make such decisions. That’s a shame, because Rumer is a supremely talented vocalist and deserves to be much better known.