Matthew E. White / Flo Morrissey

Gentlewoman, Ruby Man

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Neo-soulman Matthew E. White first played with neo-Laurel Canyon songstress Flo Morrissey at a Lee Hazlewood tribute concert, where they performed "Some Velvet Morning" together. Pleased with their chemistry, they embarked on recording a collection of covers, hunkering down with White's Spacebomb collective to cover ten songs from the past and present. White and Morrissey curated a diverse selection of tunes, choosing familiar numbers from the Velvet Underground ("Sunday Morning"), Leonard Cohen ("Suzanne"), and Frankie Valli ("Grease"), a deep cut from George Harrison ("Govindam"), a number from jazzman Roy Ayers ("Everybody Loves the Sunshine"), and compositions from European eccentrics Nino Ferrer ("Looking for You") and Charlotte Gainsbourg ("Heaven Can Wait"). Balancing these deep catalog tunes are selections from White and Morrissey's own contemporaries Little Wings ("Look at What the Light Did Now"), James Blake ("The Colour in Anything"), and Frank Ocean ("Thinking Bout You"). That's a lot of ground to cover but ace producer White ties it together with the lush, sultry evocation of '70s soul, funk, and pop that's become his stock-in-trade. It's such a groovy sound that it disguises how these songs are not so much interpreted as arranged. Part of the problem lies in the wispiness of both White and Morrissey. Neither vocalist is a strong presence, so their voices wind up not as the focal point on the record but as an element in the tapestry. That may be enough to make Gentlewoman, Ruby Man an alluring listen -- it offers a supple, soulful shimmer, one that's hard for anybody steeped in '70s vinyl to resist -- but it's not enough to make it compelling.

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