The Uckfield bluesman and rapper Rag’N’Bone Man might be a decade older than most breakout acts, but the 32 year old singer stepped boldly out of the shadows with his performance of ‘Human’ on Jools Holland last year. His growling, soulful voice captured the attention of every listener, and complemented the most relatable message a song can have; “I’m only human.”
On this, his first full length album, it’s an opportunity to prove he deserves the hype, nominations and Critics Choice Award. After releasing numerous EPs to quiet critical acclaim, collaborating with Vince Staples and Kate Tempest and now a chart topping single, Human seems fully realised, polished and powerful. His almost trademark gritty voice is heard emotionally battling through ‘Love You Any Less’, bellowing ‘Arrow’’s chorus soulfully and rapping eloquently on ‘Ego’, something he’s done under the name Rag’N’Bonez since he was a teenager with collective The Rum Committee.
Despite the feeling that much of the album is filler (particularly if you listen to the 19 track deluxe edition), Human feels triumphant. There’s hasn’t been a bluesy pop crossover that’s had this impact in recent memory, and it feels unique for it. Tracks like ‘As You Are’ and ‘Be The Man’ sound like successful next singles sure to find him even more fans, but the incredible acapella closer ‘Die Easy’, first heard on the 2012 Bluestown EP, highlights what makes him so special. The raw emotive feeling of his vocals and delivery is most powerful without the polished pop production. His immense voice, clever collage of stylings and character is enough to make him one of the best new artists about today.