To say Ruby Turner has a bubbly personality would be similar to describing Picasso as a bit of a character.
The effervescent singer – best known for her regular appearances in Jools Holland’s rhythm and blues orchestra as well as performing alongside a host of other blues and soul legends – appears at Langholm’s Buccleuch Centre on Sunday, April 1.
The show follows the release of her latest album, I’m Travelling On, on her own record label. It returns Ruby to her gospel roots, with religion still playing a big part in her life, though she left the church at the age of 15.
“I watched someone on a gospel TV channel saying that non-fully-fledged Christians who don’t attend church were now performing gospel music,” said Ruby. “I thought it was an interesting point but God has given me what he has and this album was a thank-you back to him in my own way.
“I was nine years old when I came to the UK and things could have gone the other way but with his help it didn’t.”
Born in Jamaica, Ruby gave her first performances on the stage as a teenage actress, including at the Edinburgh Festival in a rock opera written by friend and then manager Gareth Owen.
A first EP release, including Van Morrison and Bob Dylan covers, was rewarded by airplay on the late blues legend Alexis Korner’s Radio 1 show.
Ruby became an in-demand session singer, with everyone from UB40 to Canadian Corey Hart, then a huge star in the United States.
She toured there as featured vocalist with Culture Club, and returned home to a solo deal with Jive Records on the table.
Four albums, and extensive national and international touring, and a Motown Songbook album with the Four Tops, the Temptations and other legends followed. She has recorded seven hit singles and a prestigious US R&B number one with Its Gonna Be Alright, and appears on Seasick Steve’s gold-certified album I Started Out With Nothin and I Still Got Most of it Left.
She says: “I know I am approaching the twilight of my career and I have reasonable acceptance of what I can or cannot do. I just want to be the best I can be. Some people are not satisfied with who they are or what job they are doing. It would be a crying shame if that was to happen to me.”
Asked whether she prefers playing a supporting role, as she will be doing with Jools Holland on his numerous gigs this year, or being the main act as she currently is on her UK tour, Ruby replied: “I can mix and match. I am a natural team player. I can do the supportive role and just really go for it, and I have the experience to be the main performer and hold the attention of the audience.
“It is a wonderful thing [playing with Jools]. It happened when not much was going right and it was the earnings from working with Julien which allowed me to put out So Amazing [Ruby’s first album on her RTR record label in 2005].”
As for her Langholm date, Ruby said: “I have played in Edinburgh, Glasgow and Aberdeen but never down in the Borders.
“It is weird that having been in the industry for so many years, and going back and forth between venues which ask you back, that I am now playing audiences who have never seen me before. It is a new challenge but a good one.”
Tickets for Ruby Turner are priced at £18. Phone 01387 381196 for more details.