Man, this guy sings straight from the heart and then some! Carrying on the most fundamental and irreducible aspects of the troubadour / balladeer / protester, Rupert Wates is a glorious throwback to the old Woody, Pete, Phil Ochs days filtered through a bit of Harry Chapin, English strains, and Bruce Cockburn. Enlisting the wondrous bassist Michael Manring and percussionist Chris Howard, he keeps to spare but vibrant atmospheres—and Howard is quite the offset complement to Manring's sinuous lines.
This is Wates' third release and it's a completely authentic work that would be more expected of a 30-year road and studio vet. Wates has a bit of Chris DeBurgh in him pitch-wise but not a shred of DeBurgh's bourgeois pop sensibilities. He's dedicated to the core issues and to seeing an end to man's madness:
I'm sick of taking happy pills I'm tired of all the blood we spill
…although the pains and hopes in the comings and goings of the wayward shufflers on this mortal coil -- the human animals beset by flaws and misfortune in their attempts to connect and reconcile -- are very readily known to him as well:
And years from now when grief and pain
There's a secret to the immediacy of this set, though: every song was captured straight out, no overdubs, and most of them in a single run-through. A lot of great music has been made in this fashion, and Dear Life joins the august. Each song yanks the listener fully into the story and rhythms, not to mention an emotionality imbuing Wates' plaintively melodic voice. Every cut's a gem, completely absorbing, enthralling, and thus we have a new and unique songwriter-musician already in the front ranks by dint of uncanny aesthetics and the sort of searing immediacy that leaves calendar and convention as mere stepping stones to timeless work.
Too bad I didn't get ahold of this by the close of December as it definitely would have made my Best Of 2008 list here on FAME. If this guy doesn't have a brilliant future ahead of him, then I'm breaking all my pens and pencils and taking to the writing of pharmaceutical prescriptions instead of music reviews because there's obviously no justice whatsoever in this gig. Trust me, Rupert Wates is an exceedingly rare talent.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2009, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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