Below is a new review of the album, by Lisael in ROOTSTIME
, an online mag in the Netherlands, translated from the Dutch:
"Rupert Wates was born and bred in London, a full time musician since 1992. In 2001 he moved to Paris, and in 2006 settled in the USA. In London he worked mainly as an accompanist for Jazz singers. During his time in Paris he emerged as a solo artist, bringing out CDs regularly. This is his fourth.
"We are dealing with a concept album. Here in 'JOE'S CAFE,' Wates issues a welcome and himself takes the role of Joe. There follow stories typical of a cafe in the '60s, about the people who frequent the cafe, and taking inspiration from Paul Auster's True Tales Of American Life.
"Wates has a soft voice which suits his gentle folky material. His voice is reminiscent of Gordon Lightfoot. But he assigns the roles of the different people to other singers. Thus twelve different vocalists perform the songs, making for some variation while still preserving unity. Wates himself sings three songs. Among the names of his collaborators only that of Craig Bickhardt rings a bell.
"Some numbers stand out by means of their different flavors. There is 'Snow In New York,' a jazzy number sung by Cassendre Xavier, a lady with a voice recalling that of Cassandra Wilson. Also in a jazzy vein is the powerful 'The Voodoo Doll' sung by Safiya Fredericks. 'Dick And Delores' is the story of a white man who marries a black woman, who cannot accompany him to cafes, leading to a legal battle. This story is accompanied by some great violin and recalls the work of Tim O Brien. I may mention also that the cover comprises an illustration of a lighted cafe window, with a mixed race couple outside (and presumably forbidden to enter).
"The best number is 'The Skies Of South Dakota', sung virtually acapella by an assured Ashley Gonzalez. Next best is a close fight between 'Dick And Delores' and 'Days Of Mercy', notable for beautiful harmonies and an infectious rhythm. The songs go from introspective to swaggering, from sad to happy. As examples the sad tale of 'Stand Up Comedians' and the gypsy swing of 'A Sunny Afternoon In The Bronx' are polar opposites. The album ends with a very accessible song of cheer raising a glass in toast to friendship.
"Wates has given a concert performance of the album featuring all the musicians at the Metropolitan Room in New York City. This concert can be seen on YOUTUBE
, so you can check out the quality for yourself. I myself can unreservedly recommend the CD to anyone who likes to bask in beautiful stories set to music."