Glowing in the darkness like a faint light at the end of a tunnel, we find a smooth vocal harmony that starts and ends with Ronnue in his cover of “I Can’t Tell You Why,” one of seven such tracks to be included in his new album Covers. In this song and the other six that join it in Covers, there isn’t a thing in the world that could distract us from Ronnue’s profound crooning. The bells and whistles are on the sidelines while the natural charm has been turned up to 11, and whether you’re ready for the sensuous vibes to come or not, they slip through the air one after another in every song here.
Tone tends to be a bigger element of communication than the specific lyrical content in the compositions Ronnue has selected for this cover record, but I think that, given he didn’t write any of these songs himself, this was the right way to go about the project. There’s little that annoys me as much as an artist who tries to play someone else’s music in the exact same style as the original – it’s Joe Cocker’s “With a Little Help From My Friends” or even Mario Judah’s “Rockstar” that provoke the biggest response in people, and to this effect, “Sex Shooter,” “Fire” and every bit of Covers is a win for the LP’s star performer.
Surprisingly enough, there’s not nearly as much of a swagger component to this record as I had thought there would be when taking into account just how much confidence Ronnue brought into his sessions for Introduction 2 Retro-Funk last year. This isn’t a problem of course, but more of an observation; it’s almost as though he’s being intentionally hesitant in some of his melodic lashing here, and within the context of the pop aesthetic, it actually makes the entire album sound a little more intimate as a result.
Although Ronnue is quick to play it safe with the harmonies in “That’s the Way Love Goes,” his duets with Lisa G. Allen (“Being With You” and “What Can I Do For You”) and “She’s Always in My Hair,” his virtuosity as a vocalist still shines through amidst the otherwise minimalist-influenced setting. It took some serious work behind the board to make these songs sound as positively overbearing as they did from an instrumental perspective, and in giving my man something to break through in order to find catharsis with each of these hooks, embracing contrast was a cornerstone of making Covers a reality.
I’ve been a fan of this guy’s music for a couple of years now, and he definitely does not disappoint in this latest effort by any measurement. Covers has a bit in common with some of its stylistic contemporaries in the American indie underground when it comes to being a little eccentric structurally, but I don’t know that you’re going to find another cover album that has as firm a performance foundation as Ronnue has given this LP. All in all, this is another homerun for his career.
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