Gem of the UK soul scene Ruby Turner heads to Ipswich
International singing star Ruby Turner talks Jools Holland, the fight to keep reggae alive and gets some career advice from entertainment writer WAYNE SAVAGE
“SONGS of my Life, I like the title baby,” laughs Ruby, quickly adding “don’t sue me now.”
We’re talking about the name of her next album, recorded in New Zealand under the title Responsible in the early 90s but never released here.
I promise to waiver any copyright claims if she uses my suggestion; “Yeah, see you in court,” she laughs.
Ruby, joining Jools Holland and his Rhythm and Blues Orchestra at the Ipswich Regent on October 29, isn’t into playing the whole got to have a single then an album out game.
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“I think ‘oh get lost’, I just want to make some music and that’s that,” she says.
Recent single Leaves in the Wind, which will be included on the re-release, only came about after Ruby narrated a BBC4 documentary charting the history of reggae music and its affect on Britain.
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The conclusion was the genre had had its day, stirring a sense of injustice in her.
“It touched my heart in the sense that they’re trying to tell you that music which was the lifeblood of a lot of musicians who did really well - the Police, Bob Marley, UB40 - is gone.
“I had this incredulous thought that it’s been abandoned because it’s this whole commercial thing; it doesn’t sort of wash with what’s happening now. What do you mean what’s happening now; it’s a part of our history, how can it be dumped like that?”
Remembering the reggae infused Leaves in the Wind off her third album, she re-did the vocals; re-recording it with a new slant.
“It’s my tribute to a great area of music that I think a lot of people benefited from back in the day; who loved it and loved what it stood for. For me it meant unity, community, everybody owned it.
“I’m reading this piece and all I can remember was back in my early teens when reggae was ripping it up in the school yard, in the neighbourhood, carnivals, dance parties with everybody invited.”
Long-time guest vocalist Ruby, who has been working with Holland for nearly two decades now, will join the boogie-woogie maestro for another night of big band brilliance spanning his entire solo career as well as songs from his latest album Rockinghorse.
“Jools works extremely hard; I’m just grateful being part of it. There’s no gravy train mate, I have to earn that juice,” she laughs.
She does that.
Jamaican-born Ruby came to the UK with her mother when she was nine.
She thinks her love of singing came from her gospel singer grandfather, whom she sadly never knew.
“My brother, who’s three years older, came to visit from the States and saw one of my shows at the Jazz Caf�. He said ‘you’ve got it, but you had it even when you were about five’.
“Apparently, even then, there I was in the corner side of the stage at the Montego Bay Town Hall, giving it large. I was pushed on stage and he said you jigged even more. I clearly wasn’t shy.”
Settled in the UK, Ruby was drawn to theatre, with stints in the West End and UK theatre tours.
Her love of reggae was there through her early years but then came the introduction of the blues, soul and jazz via Ella, Aretha and Muddy Waters to Dylan, Van Morrison, Ry Cooder and the Stones.
“I was on a good diet,” she laughs.
Becoming an in-demand session singer, after Ruby toured America as featured vocalist with Culture Club, she returned home to find a solo deal with Jive Records on the table.
Hit albums, singles, extensive national and international touring and huge acclaim all followed so it was no surprise when the call to guest and record with Holland came.
Ruby was particularly looking forward to sharing the stage with guest star Shane McGowan on this tour.
“I met him many years ago again very briefly and you know it’ll be a really interesting tour; I’m quite looking forward to it,” she laughs, “I say no more.”
Since speaking the ex-Pogues’ singer has been forced to pull out of the tour due to continuing health concerns; being replaced at the Regent by Holland’s former Squeeze bandmate and long-time friend Chris Difford.
Ruby says fans are in for a good time.
“The thing with this band which Jools has set up, you see the people, the music strikes up man and then it’s off and it’s great. Music has done this throughout our history; it’s something humans really need. On a big scale like Jools takes it out you’re well and truly swept away; you look out in the crowd and there’s a host of people there for the one reason, a really nice time.
“You can’t beat that and I give thanks to God for moments like that; when you look up and see people having a really good time and not having a b****y fight,” she laughs.
So, any clues as to some of the numbers fans can expect?
“Oh let it be a surprise; you mustn’t give away everything. It won’t be a party if you know everything.”