Ruby Velle & The Soulphonics are something else. The Atlanta-based group is like wearing a tutu in public and making it work. They are like professional hula hoopers. They are a bacon chocolate bar. They released It’s About Time in 2012 under Gemco Records and keep churning out soulful song after soulful song.
As the album begins with “My Dear,” the lights dim and bodies begin to sway. [Or I imagine they would were everyone else in this café hearing what I’m hearing.] Then a voice pierces the ambiance to deliver a message straight from the soul. The message is one of encouragement, motivation, and persuasion to get up, get out, and do Good. The album continues with “Medicine Spoon,” a raucous, roiling romp with horns and the powerful voice of a woman having fun.
As drums initiate the listener into “The Man Says,” Ruby takes a stroll with the bass as she sings of the pointlessness of societal expectations and ruminates on the tantalizing, rebellious, alternative: the outrageous unknown. With horns that make me weak in the knees, the sound grows and fades out in a beautiful symphony of soul. “The Agenda” has that sound of something familiar but new. The music could be from another decade, but the vocals have something shiny and new about them, like a kombucha brewery in a dingy part of town, or a librarian telling you to use a computer. The music ominously supports the lyrics, which acknowledge the negative while encouraging (and even proliferating) the positive.
“Looking for a Better Thing” is like cloud gazing. The song is full of activity, but there is something relaxing about it. The song extolls embracing the present and making the most of one’s situation, rather than sighing into your morning oatmeal and wishing you had an omelet. If you want an omelet, find some eggs and make one yourself. It’s not that hard to do.
“Soul of the Earth” pulls you up off the grass, away from cloud gazing and breakfast contemplation and prods at you until you’re dancing. The song celebrates humanity while bringing the soul. This is a song that live, must be an out of body experience. They should play this song at Suboxone clinics. The next track on It’s About Time is “Coming Home to You,” a slightly more downtempo but no less soulful song that takes a turn for the sultry. Ruby’s polished vocals shine as she delivers the lyrics heartfirst.
Like most songs about making poor choices with poorly-chosen men, “Mr. Wrong” is upbeat and swinging, Ruby’s vocals with the strength of a cast iron skillet being swung in threat overhead. The song is playful and showcases the band’s message of making the best out of any situation, as hairy is it may seem in the moment. The “Longview” on It’s About Time is very different from the “Longview” found on Green Day’s 1994 Dookie. The music is restrained in a funky way like sriracha aioli, and the lyrics speak to seeing past the immediate to “take the longview”. Good advice delivered in a delightfully danceable way.
As the title track, the final one on the album, begins, staccato guitar sets the stage for something soulfully languid, euphonically rich, a final blow to drive home the overarching message of the entire album. “It’s About Time” encourages people to take action now to do good in the world: to unite, to spread freedom, to “take…back” the world we live in and make it a good place to be for everyone. It takes them about six and a half minutes to do all this, but you hardly notice, because it is so easy to lose yourself to the Sound.
Ruby Velle & The Soulphonics do more than play music. They deliver a profoundly meaningful message to the deep recesses of your cerebral meat and serve as an impulse to act. It’s About Time is a beautiful tribute to all that is good about the human race. Erykah Badu (with whom Ruby Velle & The Soulphonics have shared a paper marquis) is on the record as having spoken of something that not all musicians achieve, but Ruby Velle & The Soulphonics certainly have: “Hopefully, my music is medicine, some type of antidote for something…”