Melissa Ruth creates unavoidably sad music with a 10-song collection she’s titled Bones. She sings sadly, even when her songs aren’t particularly sad. Well, all of these sound kinda sad, come to think of it. She sings the blues, even when the style is not explicitly blues. This album has a late night, quiet, dark house sort of feel to it, from start to finish.
The album opens with a most un-Americana-esque song, at least in subject matter, called “Edith Piaf.” Piaf, the French singer, was a bit of a tragic figure. Her best-known song was “La Vie En Rose,” which exemplified her torch ballad style that focused on sorrow, love, and loss. She died young, at 47, after a short life filled with alcohol abuse. Although pre-rock, she is loved by the rock community because of her Gothically fatalist life and music.
One of the album’s rare encouraging songs is titled “A Good Man.” It’s a simple song of praise for a man that treats his woman well. Another track, “Nashi Lyundi,” is about Russians that immigrated to Western Canada. This is a history Ruth knows well, as she was raised in rural British Columbia. With its muted trumpet, “Wild Roses” has a kind of old timey jazz feel going for it. Ruth sings this one with a kind of sorry desperation in her voice.
The album’s title track finds Ruth singing over an arrangement that adds electric piano to its guitar rhythm. The track is taken at an unhurried pace. It includes an atmospheric electric guitar solo within. It also sounds like something Daniel Lanois could have put his production fingerprints on.
One song, “Logger’s Lament,” features a lyric perhaps only a rural woman could write well. It speaks about the harsh economic circumstances of a logger. There’s even a reference to how an environmental concern put some loggers out of work. Ruth doesn’t sing it as a political diatribe – from either side of the political spectrum. Rather, she basically tells it like it is, a little bit like a journalist writing a news report. In fact, the world could sure use more journalists like the kind Ruth inhabits with her song. ‘Unbiased news’ has become a kind of modern-day oxymoron, sadly. This latter track includes plenty of nice acoustic slide guitar coloring it.
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One titled “Yoncalla Moon” picks up the pace significantly. With its punchy organ fills, it sounds a little like one of those memorable soul-rock concoctions from the ‘60s. This one has a persistent, consistent beat, and Ruth sings it a bit like a saucy blues singer. The track also includes an extended electric guitar solo, which propels it to new heights. There’s even an organ solo, which – unfortunately – we don’t hear a lot of these days. She sings some blues – real blues – with “Holding The Light,” which is relatively quiet and gentle, but nevertheless a blues of a kind. It also features a gospel-y group of backing vocalists on it.
There are a lot of ‘country’ artists, in Nashville and nearly everywhere else. However, there are few with the same country living credentials as Melissa Ruth has. Her fine album is beautifully earthy and authentic.
Dan MacIntosh, Posted by Garth Thomas