Review: Ruarri Joseph, The Miller, London

Singer-songwriter Ruarri Joseph dishes up feisty folk with a side of solemn soul

Ruarri Joseph looks down as he makes a confession. Up until now, he’s been playing his catchy blues-inspired folk-soul with little in the way of introduction. But now he’s talking about the last time he saw his friend, who passed away a few years ago.

No More Sins, which has recently been playlisted on BBC Radio 2, is a reaction to the guilt he felt at not crossing the road and giving his friend a hug when he still had the chance. A few days afterwards, his friend, a young dad, tragically died in a surfing accident. Joseph’s latest album, Brother, is dedicated to him.

Although the new album is the focus for the evening, Joseph includes older material, including As Always, a simple but beautiful dedication to his wife. The tempo is ratcheted up when he plays the foot-stomping Tales of Grime and Grit – a moody contrast among otherwise soothing folk songs.

During the first of three encores, the energy reaches new heights as the enchanting support act, Lily and Meg, return to join the band and audience in a crescendo of “that’s alright,” the chorus line to the uplifting An Orchard for an Apple.

The closing song, Anyway, is dedicated to his late friend. “We all care about your soul,” Joseph sings, ending with his joyful and mantra-like delivery of the song’s final lyrics: “Yeah, we love and we lose, but we need and we choose anyway.” I get goosebumps and the song stays in my head for days.

From sad tales to impassioned love songs, Joseph surfs his emotions with simplicity and authenticity, and in the end, that really is alright.

Brother is available now. Ruarri Jospeh is on tour in Scotland throughout February