After a somewhat turbulent 2009 that saw Ruarri Joseph side tracked by family life for almost a year, it’s clear from the moment the Cornish singer-songwriter steps on stage at the Exeter Phoenix with his new band that’s he’s happy and ready to be back.
His latest album, Shoulder to the Wheel, is the most mature and optimistic albums he’s recorded, and during the gig he hints that he’s moved on from the angst-ridden lyrics of his previous albums. Prior to launching into ‘Red Mist’, an angry song from his deeply personal second album, he admits to the audience that he wishes he could change the tense of the song from “I see a red mist” to “I saw a red mist.” Thankfully he doesn’t and he belts out the song with all the emotion it deserves.
Halfway through the varied set that includes a healthy mix of songs from his latest LP plus a sprinkling of hits from his previous two albums, including the fabulously titled ‘Hope For Grey Trousers’ (a true story, apparently), we’re treated to a completely new song, ‘No More Sins’. Lifting the tempo with its heavy drum opening and its gutsy guitar playing it has a hint of rockabilly to it and gets the whole audience toe-tapping and shoulder swaying.
Whenever Ruarri plays a gig, whether on his own with just his acoustic guitar and harmonica or, as he is at the intimate Exeter Phoenix venue, with his band, it’s a relaxed and laid-back affair with plenty of banter. Having battled through periods of his life some of his lyrics are dark, but with his rich baritone voice he delivers each song with an air of hopefulness, which in turn leaves the audience surfing along to a communal feel good vibe.
Words: Tor McIntosh