One thing that makes me laugh in the music industry, is when someone is referred to as an “overnight sensation.” This usually, is so far removed from the truth. Hardly any artist ever becomes a “star” overnight. Usually, they’ve fruitless spent years trying to make a breakthrough. Sometimes, this can mean may years playing concerts far and wide, literally living out of the back of a Transit van, as they head up and down motorways. Later, after scrimping and saving, they may record a demo, and send it out to record companies. Often, nothing is heard back, not even a short rejection letter. Then, when “suddenly they’re discovered,” the same record companies, beat a path to their door promising to make them an “overnight sensation. One singer who spent many years trying to establish herself as a singer, is Rumer. Before receiving her “big break,” she spent many years trying to establish a foothold in the music industry. When she did, she recorded one of the best debut albums of the last ten years, Seasons of My Soul. On that album, you’ll hear one of the best female vocalists of the past twenty years, and eleven wonderful songs. In this article, I’ll tell you about Rumer’s career, and what makes Seasons of My Soul, such a fantastic album.

Rumer was born Sarah Joyce, in June 1979, in Pakistan. She is the youngest of seven children and grew up first in Islamabad. When her parents divorced, the family returned to England, and lived in Carlisle, in Cumbria. On leaving school, Rumer studied at Dartington College of Arts in Devon. Later, she moved to London, to pursue a musical career. To make ends meet, Rumer worked as a waitress.

Tragedy struck for Rumer. Her mother Sarah, had been diagnosed with breast cancer. Rumer moved back to New Forest, to be with her mother. She lived in a caravan, and it was while she was there, that she started to write songs. In 2003, Rumer’s mother Sarah, died of cancer. After this, Rumer suffered a breakdown. For a year, she lived in a commune in the south of England. After that, she headed back to London, to try and pursue a career in music.

On her return to London, Rumer used the name Sarah Prentice when she sang. Between 2000 and 2001, she was the singer with La Honda, a London based folk and indie band. She first used the name Rumer in 2004, when she formed Rumer and The Denials. They released a single in 2007, which was a Come To Me High, which is  one of the songs on Seasons of My Soul. Another song on Seasons of My Soul, which emerged during this time was Slow. Slow was one of the tracks on a compilation album entitled A Very Magistery Valentine. 

Before the release of Seasons of My Soul, Rumer released an album in South Korea under her real name Sarah Joyce. This was called Coffee and Honey, and was released in April 2010.

Rumer signed a a record contract with Atlantic Records. Having at last, secured a record deal, Rumer and producer Steve Brown entered the recording studio. Recording Seasons of My Soul was a slow process. This took much of 2009 and 2010. However, on the album’s release, their patience was rewarded. Seasons of My Soul was released on 1 November 2010. On its release, it reached number three in the UK album charts. Since its release, it has sold over half a million copies worldwide. It wasn’t just in the UK that album was well received, and commercially successful. Throughout Europe the album sold well, and it sold well in Australia and New Zealand. 

The two singles released from Seasons of My Soul didn’t do well. Slow, the first single released from Seasons of My Soul in August 2010, only reached number sixteen in the UK single’s charts. Aretha, released in October 2010, only reached number seventy-two in the UK single’s charts. Obviously, Rumer’s music is very different from the music that tends to do well as singles. R&B and dance music tend to top the single’s charts, so it was always a long shot that either Slow or Aretha would make much impression. However, the UK album charts were very different.

So impressed was legendary songwriter Burt Bacharach, with Rumer’s voice, that he inviter her to his house, so he could hear her sing. Since then, he’s written sever songs for Rumer with lyricist Steven Sater. In December 2010, Rumer released an EP, Rumer Sings Bacharach At Christmas.

2011, has seen Rumer’s talent recognized. This year, she was nominated for two Brit Awards and two UK Asian Music Awards. Rumer won the UK Asian Music Award for Best Alternative Act. She also won the MOJO Award for Best Breakthrough Act. 

Having told you about Rumer’s career so far, I’ll now tell you just why Seasons of My Soul is such a fantastic album. Am I Forgiven is the opening track on the album. When I first heard this track, I was struck by Rumer’s voice. Straight away, I was reminded of the late Karen Carpenter. There are striking similarities between the two, especially when Rumer sings the higher notes. A piano plays, Rumer sings, straight away, you’re enthralled. Lush and tight vocal harmonies accompany Rumer. Later a flugel horn plays, sounding as it belongs on one of Burt Bacharach finest track’s. This is an absolutely brilliant track to open the album. It’s the combintion of Rumer’s fantastic voice, great lyrics and a wonderful arrangement.

Come To Me High has a lovely dreamy sound and feel as it begins. Rumer’s voice sounds relaxed, she sounds happy. It’s a song that gently washes over you. It’s the type of song you want to hear on a lazy Sunday morning. In some ways, it reminds me of Jerry Burns, and certain songs on her debut album Jerry Burns. As the track opens, Rumer scats, her voice slow, relaxed and seductive. Behind her, another great arrangement emerges. A Rhodes piano, double bass and drums play. They too, play slowly and gently. Their playing is spacious. Midway through the track, a flugel horn blows gently. Its entry and influence, increasing the already seductive sound. Throughout the track, Rumer’s vocal retains a lovely dreamy quality, and like the opening track, Steve Brown’s production is masterful. 

When Slow begins, you could be fooled into thinking that you’re listening to Karen Carpenter. The arrangement even sounds like something out of an old Carpenters album. However, it’s not Karen Carpenter, it’s Rumer, and like Carpenter, she’s blessed with one of the most beautiful voices you’ll hear. There’s a timeless quality to Slow. It’s a song that could have been recorded forty years ago or yesterday. Regardless, of when it was recorded, it’ll still sound good in ten or twenty years, like great music does. When Rumer sings Slow, the tempo is low, the arrangement which includes a string section, lush. This compliments Rumer’s voice perfectly. Her voice almost floats out of your speakers. Quickly you’re transfixed by this beautiful voice. The other thing that’s immediately noticeable are the lyrics. Written by Rumer, they’re tender and heartfelt, telling of unrequited love. Overall, Slow is one of the album’s highlights, three and a half minutes of magical music.

Take Me As I Am, has a bigger, fuller, arrangement as the track begins. Rumer’s voice is higher. As usual, she sings clearly, her phrasing perfect. The tempo is slightly quicker, the arrangement a bit more dramatic. It builds up, and then flows along. Again, a string section features, helping to set the dramatic scene. They’re helped along buy Steve Brown playing piano, organ, flute and bass. Brown isn’t just a composer and producer, but a highly talented musicians. Another thing that helps the song are some wonderful backing vocals. One minute they’re subtle, the next they soar gloriously. They too, contribute towards making Take Me As I Am another great track, one that features some telling lyrics about the hurt Rumer has previously experienced. From these lyrics, it’s apparent Rumer is a survivor, and has lived through some really tough times. 

As Aretha begins, subtly a flugel horn blows. When Rumer sings, she turns back the clock, to sing about childhood. What emerges is a song about a young girl experiencing some terrible problems. A poor childhood, and a mother whose having relationship problems. So she confesses her problems to Aretha, as she listens to her on her way to school. Aretha in turn, helps her, and through her music, helps her to deal with life’s problems. The lyrics are some of the best on Seasons of My Soul. Rumer’s performance of the lyrics is just as good. At the start of Aretha, Rumer’s voice is stronger and louder. Throughout the song her vocal is slower. Sometimes, her vocal soars, demonstrating the strength and power of her voice. During the song, the lyrics sound personal to her, as if they mean something to her. Every time I hear Aretha, I’m struck by the arrangement. It starts quietly, almost subtly, yet during the song, it builds and as Rumer’s voice soars, the arrangement grows fuller and louder. Overall, it’s an arrangement of two parts nearly, one that matches Rumer’s vocal perfectly. Both Rumer’s vocal, and Steve Brown’s arrangement, contribute towards making this such an honest and heartfelt song.

A harmonica plays as Saving Grace begins. Rumer then sings lyrics that many people will be able to empathize with. She sings about clock watching whilst working, longing to see the one she loves. They’re the only reason she can stick the daily grind of doing a job she hates. In the lyrics she sings about how good, he makes her feel. As usual, her voice has a smoothness, and ranges from soft and tender, to louder, and much stronger and fuller. Here a beautiful melody emerges during the song, and there are some lovely chord changes during the track. Saving Grace has quite a full arrangement. Many instruments feature on the track, including a lovely combination of piano, strings, saxophones and a flugel horn. Drums, bass and guitar fill out the sound. All the instruments, combine and compliment Rumer’s voice perfectly, producing a lovely song that many people will be able to empathize with.

Thankful begins with a piano and double bas playing. It’s a much quieter, more subdued sound. Rumer’s voice is quieter. She sets the scene, describing what’s going on, but quickly, hurt emerges. This is apparent when she sings “I’m alive and thankful for this time.” Later she sings about wanting to be loved, and laying someone to rest in the forest. I wonder if the song is about the death of her mother, and the problems she then experience. The song is heartfelt, the lyrics personal and touching. A much more understated arrangement is perfect for such a sad and beautiful song.

There’s a melancholy feel and sound to Healer. Healer talks about how life can feel so temporary. We never know how long life will be, and the uncertainty and fear this can cause. In the lyrics, she sings about closing her eyes and “I can feel you’re with me.” Again, I wonder if there’s a cathartic element in the song. It’s allowing her to express feelings about the loss of her mother. Like Thankful, the arrangement is quite subtle. It just features piano, B4 organ and a viola. This is perfect, given the nature of the lyrics to the song.

Like Come To Me High, Blackbird has a gorgeous dreamy sound and feel as it begins. When Rumer sings, she sings slowly, the tempo is slow, the sound subtle. The lyrics are easily, some of the best on the album. Here, Rumer is looking back, singing about growing up, doing things along with her mother. She remembers the good times, and sadly, the bad times they encountered together. Again, the lyrics are touching, laden with emotion, you can really feel Rumer’s sense of loss. Blackbird again, benefits from a fittingly subdued arrangement. It seems as if everything else in the arrangement is designed to compliment Rumer’s voice and lyrics. Not once, does anything overpower her vocal. Even when the waves of the arrangement build, never does her vocal get swept away. The vocal sits atop the arrangement, full of pent up emotion, the lyrics cathartically allowing Rumer to release her feeling and memories, in what is a fitting memorial to the person who meant most to her.

At the start of On My Way Home, a double bass and a baritone guitar are plucked slowly, subtly. A piano plays spaciously. Drums keep time. They too leave space, allowing the song to breathe, and build up the sense of drama. By now, the tempo is really slow, the song bathed in sadness and a sense of pathos present. In the lyrics, Rumer sings about loss, about following someone to the gates of heaven, watching them disappear and then searching the stars. When you hear the lyrics, they can’t fail to move you, you too, can’t help share Rumer’s pain and hurt. Her delivery of the lyrics is perfect. After the dreamy start, a piano plays, she sings, her voice quiet, yet strong. When her voice gets higher, it’s controlled, her phrasing remains perfect. Behind her, drums play, the piano is ever present. A viola can be heard, a mandolin plays. Vibes, guitars, organ and harmonica augment the sound. Their playing has a subtly present, as the track meanders and flows, gently washing over you. On My Way Home is yet another heartfelt and beautiful track, sang and played with a subtly that does the song justice.

Seasons of My Soul ends with Goodbye Girl, a cover of the classic Bread song. Rumer sings the song beautifully. She sings the song slightly higher and than the original. When she does, she again, sounds like Karen Carpenter. The arrangement differs from original, but in doing so is a fitting homage to a great song. Goodbye Girl opens with a harmonica playing, the Rumer sings. At first she sings slowly and quietly. Quickly the song get slightly quicker, and the arrangement fills out. Drums and piano play, a guitar joins the arrangement. Backing singers accompany Rumer. A glockenspiel can be heard, strings play. By now the sound has a beautiful lush sound, and is tinged with both drama and a sense of sadness. The longer the song goes on, the bigger and fuller and the arrangement gets.Towards the end there is a brilliant guitar solo. As it ends, the strings brings the song to a close. It was a masterstroke making this the final song on the album. Listen to the lyrics and you’ll hear Rumer singing “let me tell you goodbye, doesn’t mean we’ll never be together again.” Maybe this is Rumer singing to her late mother? 

Since Seasons of My Soul came out, I’ve loved it. It isn’t just one thing that makes this such a great album. I love Rumer’s voice, the songs, the lyrics and the arrangements. Everything about the album is of the highest quality. Rumer possesses a fantastic voice, and is also a talented songwriter. She was accompanied by some wonderful musicians on the album and in Steve Brown, had a wonderful producer. The combination of Rumer and Brown was a magical one. Brown brought out the best in Rumer. Not only did he produce the album, but he played on it, and cowrote three tracks. Seasons of My Soul is one of the best debut albums of recent years. In Rumer, we’ve a singer how sometimes sounds like Karen Carpenter. Like Carpenter, she possesses a beautiful soulful voice, a voice that has a timeless quality. It’s a voice that is suited to a variety of songs, and can go from slow and quiet, to loud and powerful. Having listened to Seasons of My Soul many times, I’ve always been struck by how mature an album it sounds. Usually, I’d expect an artist to take two or three albums to reach this stage. Not Rumer though, she has produced a stunning debut album, one that will sound good in ten or twenty years. If you’ve never heard Seasons of My Soul, it’s an album that’s well worth buying. It features eleven great songs, sung by one of the best female vocalists of recent years. Standout Tracks: Am I Forgiven, Come To Me High, Slow and On My Way Home.


Seasons Of My Soul

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