Want to know what frustration is? Frustration is listening to people whine all the time about the sorry state of today’s music when I hear more great music in a week than I did in a month when the industry was, uh, “healthy.” Frustration is hearing music deserving exposure consigned to the dust bins by a media so enthralled with itself that it ignores what is right before their ears. Frustration is lowering myself to begging people to listen to more than worthy music and find that I am speaking to the deaf.
Know what the good thing about frustration is? Every time an album comes along that is so good that it freaks me out, I forget all that. It happens more than you think, my friends, and this month’s treasure comes by way of Red House Records and one Ruth Moody. Moody is one-third of The Wailin’ Jennys and, yes, I have heard of them but somehow missed them in my musical journeys. I will correct that omission when I am done with this, guaranteed.
First, though, let me tell you what I know about Ruth Moody. She has a captivating voice and knows how to use it. She can reach down inside a person and make them appreciate the beauty of a song or even a simple turn of phrase. She can paint musical pictures worthy of a museum or an art gallery. She can bring you down when you’re high and make you high when you’re down and without you even realizing it. She does all that and more on her latest release, The Garden.
Speaking of The Garden, I couldn’t imagine a more beautiful introduction to, well, The Garden. Floating and exquisitely beautiful, the melody carries the song on a slightly upbeat but soft journey, lightly plucked banjo and violin weaving just enough of a country fabric to put it on a higher plane. It is hardly an anomaly. Cold Outside follows and steps into territory inhabited by too few, the land of ethereal beauty, the melody and presentation right up there with groups like Hem and Seafare (once known as Ameliajay). She rocks a little on Travellin’ Shoes, but it’s a light bit of country-rockin’ and all I can think is, this is what Nashville is missing. The banjo again leads off We Can Only Listen and I know people think this is Americana but I have to say that when the music is this good, Americana doesn’t begin to cover the bases. Moody steps further into the ether with the haunting Within Without You which is soft, emotionally charged folk, and then turns to the piano for a more standard singer/songwriter offering with Never Said Goodbye. A step back toward folk and country, Winter Waltz is wind across a snow-covered prairie and The Nest, well, that simple banjo does it again and so does the voice. They even throw in some outstanding fiddle for good measure. We Could Pretend could be a Hem tune except it isn’t (Hem fans will know what I mean), and it’s so sweet it hurts. Moody backsteps to the fifties and early sixties next with deft touch on Tell Me, it having that slow dancing hit quality every high school kid of that era understands. Valentine is an emotional tone poem and a very impressive one, and Moody finishes the album off with a slow waltz, “Closer Now,” a song so flowing and beautiful that if you put religious lyrics to it, Doyle Lawson and Quicksilver would record it in a minute. Maybe with the lyrics as they are, come to think of it.
That is one long paragraph which basically says that The Garden is an album for people who love music so good that it transcends the vast, vast majority of what is out there. This is way better than good. It is bordering on amazing. I know I sound like a sap, but I can’t help it. It’s just that good. Do yourself a favor. Listen for yourself. I don’t think you’ll regret it.