2017 seems to be the year of artists going solo, independent, or otherwise walking away from major record deals. Ruarri Joseph has established himself a member of this trend, leaving his solo folk career behind for more grungy shores, hoping that a new direction would allow him to loosen the restraints on his creativity which was otherwise being restricted by record label demands.
Joseph’s new band William the Conqueror (featuring drummer Harry Harding and bassist Naomi Holmes) is another reminder that separating oneself from a major industry label can be artistically freeing, and their debut album Proud Disturber of the Peace is a sign that William the Conqueror know how to work that new found freedom into a consistent and enjoyable album.
After one listen to the band’s debut release it is clear that trying to label Joseph’s newest project with a specific genre presents a challenge. There are hints of country in the guitar hooks and bluesy rhythms are peppered throughout the album, while the overall feel and the band’s laid back approach to performance says good old fashioned rock ‘n’ roll.
Thankfully, the range of genres produced by Joseph and co. are tightly held together by a consistent style that flows throughout the album and which leaves the listener in a dreamy state somewhere between the UK and middle America.
The single Tend to the Thorns, a wistful love song carried by an infectious hook and a longing lyrical delivery, shows the best of what the three piece group can do, while newest single ‘Pedestals’ is a heartfelt confessional with an ethereal rhythm. Other highlights include ‘In My Dreams’, which is both a catchy blues inspired track and works as a mood setter for the record.
Joseph draws more on some rock ‘n’ roll inspiration when ‘Did You Wrong’ is played live, the sometimes snarling vocals adding some bite to the post break-up ballad. The record is wrapped up in escapism with the ending ‘Manawatu’, about escaping New Zealand, sonically the most relaxed track on the album.