By Malcolm Carter for www.pennyblackmusic.co.uk
There seems to be an increasing number of female singer/songwriters emerging from Canada, and while most of them have their roots in the folk/country genres it would appear that each and every one has her own little twist to add.
Ruth Moody’s musical career reaches back some years. Ruth was a founding member of both the Duhks and the Wailin’ Jennys so fans of those bands will know a little of what to expect here.
Born in Australia, this talented and Juno Award winning multi-instrumentalist has been joined on ‘The Garden’ by some heavyweight musician friends (Oh Susanna, Colin Cripps, Luke Doucet and, of course, her Wailin’ Jenny band mates to name just a handful of those that lend a hand) but make no mistake this is Ruth’s show and her time to really shine.
With three exceptional talents in the Wailin’ Jennys, their albums had to be split more or less equally to give each of the band members a chance to shine. There’s no Ringo in the Wailin’ Jennys. With three strong vocalists and songwriters all vying for space, it made the albums interesting but at times left you longing for more from your particular favourite. So if Ruth Moody’s contributions were the ones that shone for you stop reading and buy ‘The Garden’. It will probably turn out to be the best thing you’ll buy all year.
We all know that Ruth can sing like an angel and play incredibly well, but to hear a dozen original Moody compositions one after the other, which many of us have never done before, is a revelation. While Ruth’s songwriting skills have always been evident, it’s only when ‘The Garden’ is taken in one listen that the listener is totally blown away by just how strong a songwriter Ruth is. Hearing Ruth’s songs scattered throughout a Wailin’ Jennys album is one thing. To hear twelve in a row is something else completely.
That’s if you can actually get to the end of the album. On first listen the temptation is there to listen to each song again as soon as it ends but I actually couldn’t get past track nine, ‘We Could Pretend’, until I’d listened to it at least six times. Ruth, always an expressive singer, wrings every last bit of emotion out of her vocals on this song while making it sound so effortless and easy. This is restrained emotion as Ruth never loses her way and manages to sound sweet all the way through. It’s an incredible performance and when the electric guitar solo comes in it’s simply breathtaking. There’s three guitarists playing on this song but I’d take a guess that it’s Colin Cripps making that guitar talk. With background vocals from Wailin’ Jenny Heather Masse, it’s a highlight on an album that is one of the best I’ve heard in a long time.
‘Cold Outside’ shows a sensual side to Ruth’s work which hasn’t surfaced so far on any Wailin’ Jennys album. It’s an unexpected surprise and like the title track makes good atmospheric use of Ruth’s banjo skills.
‘Travellin’ Shoes’ shows off Ruth’s pop sensibilities really well. Again Ruth surprises with an extremely catchy chorus helped along with backing vocals from Oh Susanna, and displays once more that Ruth solo can be an entirely different experience to her band work. A co-write with Matt Peters and Derek Norton on ‘We Can Only Listen’ on which Ruth duets with Peters is yet another highlight, “Nothing’s working for me today, maybe I’ll go for a walk in the rain” opens the song ; another stunning melody, brilliant playing from all concerned including a lovely warm organ sound from Peters which really adds to the atmosphere.
‘Nest’ recalls Ruth’s work with the Wailin’ Jennys as does the closing track, ‘Closer Now’, (which is hardly surprising as both Heather Masse and Nicky Mehta contribute backing vocals to the latter), but for the most part ‘The Garden’ is very much Ruth Moody opening up and revealing many more musical sides than she has done before.
As good as The Wailin’ Jennys are just now, Ruth Moody solo with ‘The Garden’ is the best album to date Ruth has been involved in. I can’t recommend it highly enough.