I’m a huge supporter of the local music scene. There are so many great artists in and around Nashville. Rufus Dawkins is one of them. Straight out of Clarksville, TN, HeartWhole is Rufus’s first album, as well as one of the first to be recorded by local Contra Coda Media. Often, when I hear a musician use the term “passion project” it’s followed up by something pretentious, more for the artist than for the listener… That is not the case for HeartWhole
This album, from beginning to end, is a labor of love. You can hear how glad Rufus is to share these songs, and I’m so glad he did. The album is just fun to listen to. The first track, “A Girl From Texas” is an airy and upbeat song about falling in love across state lines. The guitar has a beach rock tone, riding high over a solid rhythm section. Its a song you can dance to.
One thing I love about HeartWhole is that Rufus brings a wide range of influences to the party. The second track, “If I Like You” is catchy, and brings in some hip hop for the verses. I love the writing on this song. The lyrics have some unexpected references to things like Homer’s Odyssey. From here, the next track is a bit more mellow, with melodic guitar. “Staying” is very ethereal, and the bass player really shows his skill in keeping it grounded. The mellow tone picks up with “Dragging Me Down” which somewhat keeps the somber tone of “Staying,” but picks up with the chorus in a big way. This song shows one of what I consider to be Rufus’s best traits, which is his emotional range and skillful story telling.
Not one to end on a low note, the album closes with “All I Wanna Do.” I love this song. It’s catchy, danceable, and I cannot help but sing along to the chorus. This is the song I wait for at Rufus’s shows. The sax solo is awesome as well, but I thought the fade that led into it was a little off putting, and could have been a tad smoother. Perhaps even moving it into the song would have been nice, so as to end the album with Rufus’s vocals.
The overall composition of HeartWhole is on point, starting upbeat, mellowing out, and coming back with a great swell for a fun finale. What’s more, the album feels great as an overall piece. I feel like it really tells a story from beginning to end, with Rufus inviting listeners in to share his love of music for twenty minutes. As such, this is an album you should really take the time to listen to in its entirety. It’s well worth the fantastic price of five bucks. That being said, I wish the album was a little longer. The release party was heavily hyped, and I was ready to be there all night. Rufus, you’re going to have to get back in the studio, because I need more.
Layne Robertson at Contra Coda did a fantastic job mastering it. The mix really adds to the celebratory, beachy vibe of the music. The ultimate job of a producer is to make the artist look good, and Contra Coda did well in that department for HeartWhole.
As I said a moment ago, I was lucky enough to attend the album release party for HeartWhole. The acts leading up to Rufus were great. I particularly like Ivey. Rufus and the amazing musicians on stage with him poured their hearts out playing the album in its entirety. Again, I wish the set had been longer, but you could tell each of them wanted to be there. Do yourself a favor and catch these guys live. They play regularly around Clarksville and Nashville, and will be at Possumstock this Fall. Pick up a copy of HeartWhole while you’re at it.