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Standing Still

Jack White’s favorite backup singer steps out on her own for a strikingly original set of cover songs

ruby amanfu

Ruby Amanfu performs during the 2015 Neil Fest in New York City on September 14th, 2015.

Anna Webber/Getty

Covers albums can be a way for acts whose creative juices have gone dry to bail themselves out for a spell. Rarely do they make the kind of singular artistic statement that Ruby Amanfu achieves with Standing Still. The Ghana-born, Nashville-bred singer — who was formerly one half of the duo Sam & Ruby and a sought-after backup vocalist, most memorably on Jack White’s “Love Interruption” — makes these songs her own, creating an evocative mood piece with her original readings of deep cuts by an eclectic group of artists. Amanfu began the set after performing Bob Dylan”s “Not Dark Yet” at Dylan Fest in 2013, and she beautifully reprises that tune here, getting to its wounded heart. Produced by Mark Howard and RS alum Austin Scaggs — with the Black Keys’ Patrick Carney taking the helm on a blues-tinged version of Brandi Carlile’s “Shadow on the Wall” — the album was recorded in a log cabin and, with its hushed intimacy, you can almost hear the fireplace crackling in the background. Indeed, when Amanfu coos “I hear a songbird’s melody, and she’s singing just for me” on Richard Hawley’s “As the Dawn Breaks,” you’ll feel as if you are the one getting a private serenade. Although she has plenty of gospel power, delivered in measured doses here, Amanfu never oversings with her soulful, richly textured voice, letting the songs tell the story. In one transformative moment, she strips Kanye West’s 808s & Heartbreak meditation “Street Lights” down to an aching confession. You’ll never hear it the same way again.

In This Article: Ruby Amanfu

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