Thank you NPR Music. You have given me so many great additions to my music collection. Today at work you introduced me to Rumer, and I’m in love.
If, like me, you are American, then you have probably not heard of Rumer. Rumer is (yet another) soulful British woman who successfully embraced (the African-American paradigm of) soul music. It’s like a factory. And to make the connection to African-American 60’s soul even more explicit, Rumer sings a song called “Aretha“, about the music of . . . well you know who.
Rumer is being compared up and down to Karen Carpenter and Laura Nyro among others. It’s a comparison that I am not sure I completely get. Rumer’s voice is much deeper than Laura Nyro’s. Karen Carpenter’s tone was much purer; she possessed the platonic alto. Rumer’s is warmer and more immediate but not as perfect.
Surprisingly, the critics have not (though some fans have) compared to the person she is most like, her British soul predecessor Dusty Springfield. Their voices do not sound the same exactly (Dusty’s was huskier and quite distinct), but stylistically they are nearly identical. Rumer’s “Aretha” could very well have come out of Dusty in Memphis. Don’t believe me? Take a listen to the first track, Just A Little Loving.
American singers are and always have been the inspiration for these British women. Dusty loved Martha Reeves and Peggy Lee among others. Amy Winehouse is a huge fan of Ray Charles and especially (perhaps too much) Donny Hathaway. Rumer sings a whole song about Aretha Franklin, and Adele cites Etta James as her primary influence. I was glad to see some respect go the other way of the Atlantic when Shelby Lynne recorded an album of Dusty songs.
Nevertheless, Dusty became a towering figure in music beyond the British shore. That’s why I was surprised that the critics overlooked Dusty when comparing Rumer to former famous singers. For so many cultural reason as well as vocal ones, it’s the perfect fit. But I guess everyone hears what they want.