2017 is shaping up to be quite the year for 32-year-old Rory Charles Graham, known in the trade as Rag’n’Bone Man, as not only has he released his début album, Human, but he was dubbed at the BRIT awards as the Critic’s Choice and British Breakthrough Act of the year. Such acclaim can prove a double-edged sword, bestowing prestige and acknowledging skill and talent, while also ratcheting up expectations to the point where the public will almost certainly be disappointed.
So, with Human, does Rag’n’Bone Man live up to the expectation that these awards generate? Well, sort of, but not in an overly complicated way. From the outset, with the powerfully soulful titular Human, it is clear that Graham is certainly a vocal talent, with a warm, emotive, voice that is immensely listenable – no wonder the critics love him. But a compelling singer can only carry an album so far. Things are fine for the first few tracks; the Motown tinged Innocent, the mildly overwrought Skin, and the superb Bitter End – lifted from 2015’s Disfigured EP – but the album’s middle proves to be quite the nadir.
As Human progresses, it enters the realm of the unexceptional; all bluesy/soulful vocals and cookie cutter beats – except for the piano driven Love You Any Less, which just shouldn’t have happened. Luckily, proceedings are somewhat redeemed with Arrow, with its judicious use of brass, and ending on the a cappella Die Easy, which amply demonstrates Graham’s skill as a singer. The deluxe version of Human comes with 7 additional tracks, and it beggars belief that songs such as Fade To Nothing, Life In Her Yet, and Wolves weren’t included in the standard album, firming up Human’s soft mid-section. While not a flawless album by any stretch, Human clearly demonstrates Rag’n’Bone Man’s potential.