Flo Morrissey & Matthew E White – Gentlewoman, Ruby Man
Admittedly, a record full of covers is enough to make even the most open-minded music lover a bit sceptical. In a post-Simon Cowell music industry, such albums usually offer very little but quick sales and cheesy production. However, what Flo Morrissey and Matthew E White do on Gentlewoman, Ruby Man isn’t just a quick and easy rehash of popular songs; they turn them on their head in spectacular fashion.
After initially meeting in 2015 at a Lee Hazlewood tribute show in London, Notting Hill singer Morrissey and Virginia-born White immediately struck up an unlikely friendship. The YouTube documentary of the making of the album is enough to dispel any notion that Gentlewoman, Ruby Man was just the process of record execs cashing in on the typically quiet January season – Morrissey and White actually do enjoy each other’s company and this is conveyed throughout the song list.
When they’re not covering Rob Ayers’s Everybody Loves the Sunshine, the duo take on Frank Ocean’s Thinking Bout You, from his critically acclaimed album Channel Orange. What Ocean is able to achieve and convey all on his own, the pair share in equal measure, with White’s gravelly voice being the perfect soundboard for the English songwriter’s folksy tone, which at its top end is akin to Kate Bush on Wuthering Heights.
One of the most redeeming features of this collaboration is that it never feels as if the pair are trying to out sing or outshine each another, which tends to be the negative of many duet albums. The cover of James Blake’s The Colour in Anything is essentially a solo by Morrissey with White’s voice nowhere to be heard, while their version of Leonard Cohen’s Suzanne is led mainly by the American’s deep, rough vocals as Morrissey adds the odd “ooh” and “aah”.
Perhaps most striking is the cover of Grease from the 1978 movie. While the Frankie Valli original is drenched in disco through and through, here the duo strip the song back and give it an air of cool that any café in Shoreditch serving avocado toast would approve of.
As one of the first releases of 2017, Gentlewoman, Ruby Man is not just a captivating body of work that sees two artists blend their music styles effortlessly well, but it acts as a gentle introduction to the new year. With 2017 set to see a lot of change and disruption against the status quo, Morrissey and White’s album of eclectic covers is welcome familiarity, which is perhaps what everyone needs at this point.
Gentlewoman, Ruby Man is released on 13th January 2016, for further information or to order the album visit here.
Listen to Thinking Bout You here: