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The Rurals - Sweeter Sounds Print E-mail
Tuesday, 11 December 2001

The Rurals

Sweeter Sounds
format: CD
label: Peng Records
release year: 2001
performance: 7
sound 7
reviewed by: Dan MacIntosh

ImageThere can be a thin line between alternative dance music and smooth jazz with beat, and it’s sometimes hard to exactly see which side of this line The Rurals fall on. "Sweeter Sounds" is no misnomer, since all of these tunes are sweetly melodic and romantic. But for the most part, these tracks mostly click rather than thump, and swing instead of sweat. You may even prefer to relax to it, rather than dance.

All of Rurals’ music flows from the mind of Andy Compton, and each track features a vocalist, who goes only by the name Marie. Songs (and yes, these are real songs) have varying rhythms, which trickle beneath electric piano and roving bass. But few of these pieces get any louder than the hammering bass drum sounds that drive "Make Amends."

The title track, "Sweeter Sounds," has an almost robotic feel to its rhythm track; one that would have any self-respecting jazz drummer rolling over in his grave. I would assume that jazz drummers much prefer playing with feeling rather than attempt to achieve the mechanical precision one finds on this particular track. The song "Grey Clouds" hovers closely to straight dance music, due mainly to its ricocheting percussion effects, snapping bass part and relatively redundant lyric. But its message, on the dreariness of cloudy, sunshine-less days, still edges it toward breezy jazz subject matter. It’s almost as if this album is a restless dance music collection, which wants more than anything else to be taken seriously as a jazz recording.

"Make Amends" expands beyond the usual bare bones melodies of most dance tracks because of the jazzy electric guitar vamping of its outro. "No Power" also has one foot firmly in the jazz camp due to its sensual sax part. Vocalist Marie sings with a light touch, and steers well away from the real nitty-gritty of gospel/soul singing. She sings about the ups and downs of relationships, rather than about getting down with one’s bad self on the dance floor. So you won’t hear her encourage you to get on up, or get on down, anywhere on this CD.

A name like The Rurals brings to mind pictures of hayseeds with missing front teeth, but this music has nothing to do with that. It’s urban, just not street urban. A better definition of it might be a kinder, gentler soul sound, with one great big tip of the porkpie hat to jazz.

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