Monument for love.

Ruby James’ debut Desert Rose went by unnoticed in the Netherlands. That proves to be more than sad now, because that record contains almost only impressively beautiful songs.

Fortunately, Happy Now is at least just as good and even rootsier. Still, it almost had not been recorded. James, then living in LA, wanted to give up singing after that first one for lack of succes in music and love, but this successor was born from despair, necessity and chance.

Rock Bottom Choir-singer Matt McCormack linked James to band member Will Sexton. That led to eleven songs recorded in Austin over the course of three years with Will Sexton (bass), brother Charlie Sexton (drums, guitar, production) and Mike Thompson (keyboards).

Opener The Predictable Kind is thematic lyrically, but not musically. Looking back at her relationship the presumably radio friendly roots pop is well-crafted, but not distinctive because of a melody that is played and sung anonymously.

However, from the fist tones of the second song the record suddenly breaks open and the musicians and James create a threatening, autumnal atmosphere. Loosely played, often languid grooves are supported by atmospheric guitars and keyboards. In that subdued, spaceous soundscape James’ hoarse voice wanders round. Her desolate tone blends seamlessly with her often desperate words and thus makes her grieve and regret painfully tangible.

This moody, beautifully designed self-released cd is a rootsy highlight by a first-class singer-songwriter that has to be discovered now.