From the very first bar of “My Dear,” from the first moment the fat bass, crisp hi-hat, the chiming piano and guitar chords and the warm analogue vibes all kick in, you know exactly what you’re getting to get from Ruby Velle & The Soulphonics – a tight band laying down classic soul tunes belted out by a sassy singer. That’s exactly the way It’s About Time plays out – and that’s no bad thing either. Ruby Velle & The Soulphonics are a group rooted in the old school tradition – they’ve been playing together since 2005 with a sound “rooted in the rich sound of history of Georgia soul.”
It’s About Time was written and recorded in Atlanta, and in line with their old school ethos, the group have worked their way up to their debut album in the time-honoured way: playing shows (lots of shows), numerous residencies in Atlanta and the regular release of 45s. Quite aside from adhering to the classic (Southern) soul template of paying your dues with blood, sweat and tours, this long-term devotion to the music they love must account for the way the songs here sound so instantly, well, classic. Every song feels like it’s been honed and polished on the road until it can’t shine any brighter. Maybe not, maybe they were slapped down and recorded in one take, but there’s rarely a note or part out of place on the whole record.
Every song builds when it should build, when the horns come in on the bridge, it’s exactly where they should be, the downtempo song comes after the fast song, the last song is the epic slowburner. This is indeed classic soul made and performed in the classic way that will inevitably invite comparisons to the Daptone stable up in NYC. And when It’s About Time is good, like the opening “My Dear,” Ruby Velle and The Soulphonics can sit alongside the very best of that estimable label’s output. “My Dear” has the groove, the charm and the lyrics powerful enough to make you stand up and take notice. Lee Fields himself even wrote that it was “awesome” on their Facebook page and who am I to disagree?
Sadly, the rest of the album doesn’t always match this quality. Songs like “The Agenda” just feel a bit too polished, or if you will, a bit too classic for their own good. But that’s about the only criticism you can level at the album. “Looking For A Better Thing” switches it up by incorporating some ever so subtle reggae flavours, while “The Man Says” has a simply undeniable groove. Ultimately, “It’s About Time” is a classic soul album. If you find that an appealing prospect, you’ll find plenty to enjoy here. And if not, perhaps you’d better, um, walk on by.
- Will Georgi