Rumer's "Boys Don't Cry" Will Make Some Mist, Others Bawl

Real name Sarah Joyce, the 34 year-old singer-songwriter who goes by the name Rumer (after the English writer Margaret Rumer Godden), was born in Islamabad, Pakistan and is most often described as having a Karen Carpenter-like soothing, dreamy voice.

The daughter of a British woman whose British engineer husband was assigned there to work on a dam, Rumer and her six older siblings lived isolated in an ex-patriate community. Not until she was 11 and her “parents” divorced and the family moved back to England did she and her siblings discover that her actual father was the family’s Pakistani cook.

Uprooted in more ways then one, Rumer (then Sarah) finished her education at Dartington College of Arts where she studied drama, and then moved to London to begin a music career.

Upon learning that her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer she postponed her dreams and moved back to be with her. The 24 year old suffered a nervous breakdown after her mother’s passing in 2003, but a year later returned to London to resume her musical dreams.

She took time out to return to Pakistan to find her real father but when she got there she discovered that he’d recently died.

All of this background is an attempt to explain the inexorable sense of sadness and loss lurking in the backdrop behind that soothingly hypnotic, mesmerizing voice.

The singer-songwriter began gigging around London as Sarah Prentice, gathering a fan base and about a decade after she began, she signed with Atlantic Records, U.K. Soon thereafter in 2010 the label released Seasons of the Soul, her first album as Rumer, produced by composer Steve Brown, which went on to Platinum status in the UK.

Upon hearing her mesmerizing voice, Burt Bacharach invited her to America to sing for him after which he began writing songs for her with lyricist Steven Sater, best known for his work on Broadway.

In 2010, Elton John took note of her unique vocal talents and invited her to be a guest on his BBC “Electric Proms” concert show.

About Rumer Elton says: “We seem to be, in England, capable of bringing these singers out like Adele, Duffy, and Amy Winehouse and Now Rumer. People with extraordinary voices. They don’t come along that often and then you get one that comes along like Rumer’s. Just extraordinary, a beautiful voice. She’s going to be a huge star.”

Most of this history (and Rumer herself for that matter) is unknown to most Americans. Though hardly known here, she’s a star in the U.K.

The concept album, Boys Don’t Cry was released last May both in the U.K. and America, but so far it hasn’t made much of an impression here for reasons that will become obvious as you continue reading.

The concept is an album of songs by 70s singer-songwriters produced, arranged and performed pretty much in that era’s style. Unlike in the U.K. where there is simply “music” that’s consumed and enjoyed by the masses across wide musical and demographic terrains, America is far more segmented and isolated. While in the U.K. a strong interest in popular music seems to last a lifetime for a large segment of the population, in America, it seems to taper off and/or die when people hit 30. The musical tastes of America's young tend to be far more limited.

Therefore, finding an audience in America for an artist like Rumer is difficult. She’s the antithesis of say, Katy Perry for instance. She doesn’t shriek, she’s not salacious and she fits neatly into what might be called “easy listening”—not that there’s anything wrong with that if it’s done right as it is here.

The song choices are inspired beginning with Jimmy Webb’s “P.F. Sloan”, which has been covered by Jackson Browne and Jennifer Warnes among others. It’s a tribute the songwriter P.F. Sloan who wrote “Eve of Destruction” for Barry McGuire, “You Baby” for The Turtles and “Secret Agent Man” for Johnny Rivers among so many others. He subbed for Dean Torrence on “The Little Old Lady From Pasadena” and was a session guitarist with “The Wrecking Crew”—L.A.s crack studio session group.

The song “P.F. Sloan” is an inspired choice to commence an album dedicated to great ‘70s singer/songwriters! The other covers include tunes by Paul Williams, Hall and Oates, Todd Rundgren, Stephen Bishop (the guy whose guitar Belushi smashed on the frat house steps in “Animal House”), Isaac Hayes, John Sebastian, Townes Van Zandt, Ron Wood and Ronnie Lane, Richie Havens, Terry Reid and Neil Young.

The songs are superb of course—musically varied, achingly melodic, meticulously minor key and chosen to suit Rumer’s soothing yet somehow forlorn voice. Even Sebastian’s chipper “Welcome Back” (best known after it was adapted as the theme song for “Welcome Back Cotter”), takes on an air of wistfulness, while the closer, Neil Young’s “A Man Needs a Maid,” which is all about that sadness, needs no amplification in that department.

The guitar/bass/drum-based arrangements are subtle and sumptuous by today’s threadbare standards, particularly in their use of soothing background singers and the recording, though clearly digital, also pays tribute to the era. Rumer’s voice is particularly well-recorded and like good chicken “minimally processed” but definitely not “air chilled”!

Bob Ludwig mastered, Chris Bellman cut lacquers at Bernie Grundman’s and Pallas pressed so clearly Atlantic wanted the best for this Rumer album so that perhaps Rumer’s American inroad might be with the so-called “audiophile community.”

Yes, an air of nostalgia permeates this album but great songs are great songs and this album is packed with twelve of them, some of which you’ll know and probably a few of which you won’t. The insert sheet lists for each song the original artist, the album, the album’s release date and label and the composer, which during the singer/songwriter era usually was the performer.

Whether it’s Hall and Oates’ “Sarah Smile,” Townes Van Zandt’s “Flyin’ Shoes” or Todd Rundgren’s “Be Nice to Me,” the songs will resonate strongly with those familiar with them and for younger listeners perhaps help open pathways to great music from an era that seems like yesterday for some and “olden days” for others.

Put this on late at night and you’re sure to sit enthralled from beginning to end both because of the pop songwriting quality that seems to be in deep decline today and because Rumer’s voice is so magically in tune with the lyrical intent.

Music Direct Buy It Now

mraudioguru's picture

Rumer did a session on "Live from Daryl's House" with Daryl Hall.  You can catch in on the cable channel Paladia or online at

It's EXCELLENT!  That's how I found out about her.  I have since bought everything I can find from her on CD and vinyl.

Highly recommended!!!

torturegarden's picture

torturegarden's picture

I did not know she was on the show. I'm a big Hall & Oates fan and have seen a few episodes of Daryl's Hoouse and this was the best episode I've seen so far. If I don't win a copy from the contest, I'm grabbing a copy of all her records from my local store.

CCFK's picture

Thanks for the review.  I'll have to give it a listen.  And I don't want to be that guy, but it's "expatriate"  not "ex-patriot".

Michael Fremer's picture

I write and publish without the benefit of a copy editor so what I write is what you get and sometimes I make foolish and/or embarrassing mistakes. I once wrote "Billy Holiday", which is actually worse than "Jimmy Hendrix", which fortunately I never wrote!

Of course I know it's "Billie" Holiday but sometimes the brain plays tricks and out comes "Billy"! 

And out comes "ex-patriot".

Not to make excuses, but yesterday I accidentally stuck my hand into a Yellow Jacket nest and got stung. I immediately took a Benedryl—something I NEVER take—and it knocked me on my butt for the rest of the day and even this morning I felt groggy from it.

So I wrote that review "under the influence" (and not of something of which I like to under the influence!) and when I re-read it this morning I was struck by its unusual (for me) tone....

Now I'll fix "ex-patriot" and thank ewe very much!

CCFK's picture

I once had hives that required taking Benadryl for a month.  I don't remember any of it.  My sympathies!

Paul Boudreau's picture

"While in the U.K. a strong interest in popular music seems to last a lifetime for a large segment of the population, in America, it seems to taper off and/or die when people hit 30."

That certainly seems to be true here.  I've always wondered why - it results in lots of people "stuck" at what their social group last listened to in college or even in high school.  Sad, really.  It's almost a continuation of the old paradigm whereby once one became an adult, one "consumed" only accepted art, which in the case of music was classical and maybe a bit of mainstream jazz.  None of that noisy kid stuff, thank you very much.

PeterPani's picture

Sitting in Vienna it might be different again. This is a city with 3 big opera houses, and  4 big orchestra halls besides a number of small classical locations. But people here tend to go for a classical concert or opera the one day and to Vampire Weekends on the next. Even in classical music the interest for modern opera is becoming more evident in the last years - in fact classics like Tosca we play mainly for the tourists from China... Since this is a small city (1,6 mio people) a musical event is a common social event. Last week when Robbie Williams came to town a Viennese gets the feeling the whole city goes to the gig (65000 people have been there) of all ages. Whereby it can be quite strange when a young gig like Bruno Mars, Yeah Yeah Yeahs or Lady Gaga attracts equally as many teens as 40 y-olds here in Vienna and I am not sure whether the artists welcome it that older guys are easier prepared to pay for music.

DocSamG's picture

Love to win a copy

Totomatic's picture

I bought her first album 'Seasons Of My Soul' on vinyl. A great and authentic sounding jazz/pop album that sounds like Burt Bacharach produced it. And oh, that soothing, warm voice almost reminiscent of Karen Carpenter! But i am hoping she does'nt sell out or get too popular like Adele. From what i gather,she's now working on her third album. 

8thman's picture

That I might win this time!

andrew wilson's picture

Hello to all.Yes i bought this album and i agree with what Mike said.Remember the songs on this album where out long before SHE was born.Rumer does a brillant job in what can only faultless.The brillant song writers would be pleased with this album version of their classic songs.Dont miss this chance to pick up one of the best lps this century.A british Karen Carperter-no question.We all know how great that girl was.I just cant fault this album;it gets better every time i play it.Dont miss it.Andy.

andrew wilson's picture

Oh yes I Bought the UK LP Version.It has 10 tracks on it;5 each side.Still fautless.I also bought her previous album;SEASONS OF MY SOUL;again another great album.Just buy them;dont miss them.Andy.

DLKG's picture

I love The Boy's Don't cry Lp and I would really like to get  a hold of Season's of my Soul on Lp but it's so hard to find and when I do see it on Ebay it's almost always being sold from over seas or it's super expensive.  I'm hoping she gets big in the U.S. so someone reissues it here.  

The thing about her sounding like Karen Carpenter is true at times but when you listen to as much Karen as I do you can tell the difference.    I'm surprised that the Carpenter's haven't been given the High End Reissue treatment.  If they ever are reissued I will be first in line.  C'mon Mofi, let's have some reissues!!!

Glotz's picture

I can't wait to hear the LP as well. 

rakalm's picture

Just bought it here in Baltimore yesterday.  Soundgarden had it in stock.  Interestingly, I got the British Cover picture but it is the American version.  Number 880,  The British version has 2 less songs but also different song listing and order.The import leaves out Sara Smile, Soulsville,  Just For a Moment, and Welcome Back but it adds My Cricket and Andrey Johray.  Great Voice, now to find the 1st LP reasonable.

rakalm's picture

Still listening to Boys Don't Cry.  Love it, even though I am not a Carpenter's fan, I listen hard and hear a bit of Dusty.  Couldn't find Seasons of my Soul anywhere here on vinyl (I tried about 6 vinyl stores when on vacation in the South, even Asheville had none).  So, I ordered it from the UK and it's on the way.  Hard to get but didn't want to resort to CD (different cover as well).  She's here working on her 3rd now from what I understand.  Thanks Mikey for the heads up on this one!

Wilson Lem's picture

Like others, I discovered Rumer when a friend showed me an episode from Daryl's House - wow!  Her rendition of Sara Smile and and I Can't Go for That caught me off guard.  What a pure voice!  I couldn't agree more with Mikey's assessment of the musical taste of most American youth. 

Rumer's first album, Seasons of My Soul, is a very personal collection of songs mostly written by Rumer.  I have been listening to the CD version non-stop in my car.  The bonus CD version has three songs not on the vinyl album including Goodbye Girl, Alfie and It Must Be you.  Definitely worth a listen.  Rumer's rendition of A House is Not a Home at the White House dedication to the music of Burt Bacharach earlier this year was extraordinary (see it on youtube).   Her second album, Boys Don't Cry, is equally enjoyable and probably a better (vinyl) recording although her own songs are more enchanting.   

Kirby's picture

Wow Thanks