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Ruu Campbell – Heartsong

Mollie Carberry


Originally vocalist for Leftfield and part of the group Younger Brother, it’s safe to say Ruu Campbell is an individual with many strings to his bow. And now he’s going it alone, with his debut solo album Heartsong. Recorded in his home studio attached to his Somerset cottage, the influence of the picturesque English countryside is instantly obvious, and undeniably beautiful.

After the first few bars of opening track Caravan, the first thought that sprang to mind was, is this Keaton Henson? The intimate understated plucking of an acoustic guitar and frail yet effortlessly beautiful wandering vocals are so simple yet undeniably breathtaking. The addition of a melancholic string section simply enhances this ethereal beauty. There is a certain haunting sadness behind it, but not in a depressing manner -the aforementioned Henson’s music can border on soul-sapping in its unavoidable misery- but Campbell’s music is tainted with something hopeful and inspiring which helps it avoid this depressing territory.

Next track Soul and Solace is instantly more upbeat than the previous, yet the atmospheric strings and Campbell’s fragile vocals ensure that the intriguing and mysterious quality of Caravan is not lost. And Believe In Me follows suit, yet brings a decidedly Hispanic flavour to the table with the Jose Gonzalez-esque percussion and guitar. Evoking images of campfires on the beach, or lying on a surfboard in the Med, the chilled summer vibes Campbell creates are enough to make you want to escape the country, and book a plane ticket to somewhere decidedly warmer.

The only potential downside to Heartsong would be the occasional filler track, such as Love Guide Me Home. It falls slightly on the weak side, with the muted and understated aspect arguably taken too far, so that it sounds a little like background music instead of a stand-out track in its own right. But having said that, it would still surpass the majority of music currently in the charts.

One word to aptly sum up Heartsong would be atmospheric. At times, the melancholic string section evokes the feel of a dramatic period drama, with snow and driving rain and the bleak setting of the English countryside. At others, the plucked acoustic guitar takes on a much more summery feel, painting pictures of blue waters lapping white sand beaches. Campbell’s vocals weave throughout, the one constant, understated yet effortless and ethereal. He is undoubtedly another addition to the sudden influx of talented atmospheric solo male vocalists such as the likes of Nick Mulvey and Luke Sital Singh; like a mixture of Nick Drake and Jose Gonzalez, combined with something completely new that no comparisons could quite do justice. If this album is anything to go by, Ruu Campbell is definitely one to watch.