SAM & RUBY / “Sam & Ruby Mixtape”
She was born in Ghana, raised in Tennessee. Her debut 2003 album, Smoke & Honey, was released in England. She is a singer and songwriter working against the grain.
What’s a girl to do?
Ruby Amanfu’s voice is distinctive; she doesn’t sound like any one or two of the clones currently clogging up the airwaves. You hear some country, a little soul and a lot of pop.
And, oh yeah, her partner in music Sam Brooker, is a dude from Wisconsin. Sam is also a vocalist and songwriter. Music is what she really wants to do. Music is what Sam really wants to do. They decided to do it together when they met up in Nashville—Sam had gone there to make a go of it, and Ruby had returned to gather herself for her next music venture.
After sitting in on each other’s gigs and just playing informally it was easy to hear how well their voices blended, how their musical tastes blended. Soon they were writing songs together and landed a deal for a song in a major movie: “Heaven’s My Home” in The Secret Life Of Bees.
And it was on. Working together became the thing to do.
I know some folk might wonder why do I consider this black music. It’s a reasonable question. However, if you think about it, check out the antecedents, and listen closely, you’ll realize that the popular music of the United States is simply an extension of black music. Or to put it another way, if you’re into popular music, or art music, or really, any music in the continental forty-eight states it’s practically impossible not to have been shaped by musical aesthetics that originated among people of African descent.
At the same time, this is not to say that all musics are the same, nor am I suggesting that there are not other aesthetics which are definitive in different musical forms, and I suppose that’s the biggest rub with Sam & Ruby. Just like most of America is moving toward a culture of amalgamation, this duo is also offering a hybrid music that embraces all and excludes none—and that kind of music makes some people uneasy.
Many of us are uncomfortable without discreet definitions, without separate boxes to hold our particular beliefs and outlooks, but music like Sam & Ruby is revolutionary in that it clearly resists easy categorization.
What’s interesting to me is not so much the melodies, rather I really enjoy the content of the lyrics and the harmony of how the two voices mix and mate with each other. Indeed, Ruby’s background and support of Sam’s singing is sometimes singularly poignant. She sounds like soft sunshine, ya know, just after daybreak when you can look at the sun and not hurt your eyes. She sings with the tender of dawn floating in her intonations, especially that airy, open way her notes float just above the surface; not high and ringing like a rooster instead more like the fulsome cooing of a turtle dove.
Sam for his part handles that contemporary folk sound like that is what he was born to sing. But, again, more than the sound, it’s what they are saying that makes it for me. The wisdom of distilling hope out of hurt, the keeping on of realizing that not all relationships work out in the end, the understanding that even when you’re crying hard, your tears can be soft. Stuff like that.
Anyway, I just wanted to share some of what’s on the fringes. After all, the old minorities are becoming the new majority. If America is to have a productive future, people like Sam & Ruby will be at the core of tomorrow’s social realities, not because they are black or white or whatever but rather because regardless of what they are, they are willing to embrace the other.
—Kalamu ya Salaam
Sam & Ruby Mixtape Playlist
Smoke and Honey - Ruby Amanfu
01 “Just Until”
02 “Different Is Good”
03 “Chocolate Pie”
05 “You Can't Use Me”
06 “Bless You”
07 “Yin To The Yang”
The Here And The Now - Sam & Ruby
09 “This I Know”
11 “The Suitcase Song”
12 “Heaven's My Home”
Press On (EP) - Sam & Ruby
13 “I Hope You're Well”
Sony/ATV Nashville Classic Covers
“I Can't Stop Loving You”
This entry was posted on Monday, April 5th, 2010 at 3:08 am and is filed under Contemporary. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.
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