Johnny Ruffin Jr.
Just Johnny (EP)
JBP Music (release date: July 23, 2022)
By Robert M. Marovich
Although the EP Just Johnny is a solo outing for North Carolina’s Johnny Ruffin Jr., it has a quartet sensibility to it. Ruffin has a quartet lead singer’s vocal intensity, complete with growls, evangelistic shouts, and flights of top notes. The smooth-singing BGVs serve as the harmonizers.
On the clever opening track, “If They Only Knew,” Ruffin is a Pagliacci, a sad clown, who puts on a happy face to hide the pain, but he cannot hide from Jesus, nor does he want to. Lyrically, “I Believe” builds on the opener. It finds Ruffin expressing gratitude to the Most High, his friend, for boosting his confidence, “always being right there to see me through.” “See Him for Myself” also references soul transformation, that despite how the world treats him, Ruffin is in great company.
Each of the six songs are distinct, with sound melodies and decent arrangements. “Be Like Jesus” and the strutting “See Him for Myself” supply the EP’s most rhythmic moments. “Come Into My Heart” gives Ruffin a chance to do some preaching between the singing.
Outside of the use of too much synth, which to me sounds outdated in gospel, the music on the EP is solid and supports Ruffin, a Rhythm of Gospel Awardee, with fidelity.
Three of Five Stars
Pick: “If They Only Knew”