When Seasons Of My Soul came out, it was obvious that Rumer was an artist to look out for, well beyond the tired old ‘Radio 2 fodder’ category that she was instantly assigned to. As a promising new singer-songwriter, it was then odd that her follow-up, Boys Don’t Cry, is a covers album. Was all that hope in vain?
No, it wasn’t, because while it’s a shame not to have more original material, Boys Don’t Cry does work as a collection of songs by artists who have influenced Rumer. That she’s specifically made it a collection of male artists is also interesting as it escapes the obvious comparisons to Joni Mitchell or Laura Nyro, who she could so easily have covered here. It’s a sign that more thought is being given to the project than just churning out obvious songs.
It’s all tracks by male songwriters from the 1970s, so hardly straying too far from Rumer’s repertoire, although Isaac Hayes and Bob Marley do feature (the latter only on the deluxe edition). But it’s hardly full of household names or songs that everyone is likely to know, even by names like Jimmy Webb, Todd Rundgren, Townes van Zandt and Gilbert O’Sullivan.
The danger of doing a covers album is that you lose your own identity in the process, which makes it all the stranger that Rumer has done this with only her second release, but it’s perhaps proof of her own talent that she manages take on such heady talents and still come out on top. She never sounds overwhelmed by the material and apart from maybe the opener P.F. Sloan, never sounds like anyone other than herself.
So it’s perhaps odd that Webb’s song not only opens the album but is also it’s lead single, though it’s probably the most radio-friendly and catchy tune, which might explain it. More typical of the mood and feel of Boys Don’t Cry are Travelin’ Boy, Sara Smile and Flyin’ Shoes, by artists as diverse as Hall & Oates and Townes van Zandt. The production and performances on these songs are just sublime.
And that’s why this album works as a follow-up to Seasons Of My Soul. It seems to have been done to give Rumer a slight time-out from having to reach into her own very troubled life and times to come up with lyrics, while still telling her story through the words of the men who have inspired her songwriting. Doing a covers album at this point could have been a sign of weakness, but it’s so impressive that it only enhances her reputation and sets the standards even higher for that next collection of original songs.