By Nick Browne for whisperininandhollerin.com
‘The Garden’ is the debut solo album from Winnipeg based RUTH MOODY, who was one of the founding members of folk supergroup The Wailin’ Jennys, and is an excellent mix of folk ballads and country tinged tunes, topped off with Ruth’s exceptional soprano.
There are twelve tracks on the album, opening with the title track, ‘The Garden’, which Ruth states “was inspired by a theme from Voltaire’s ‘Candide’ – the idea that we must work on our garden and make our little corner of the world beautiful, in whatever way we can.”
This sounds pretty head in the clouds idealistic; however, the song works really well as an opener, the banjo being the main instrument throughout, and being supported by cello, fiddle, mandolin, bass and drums. This is a slow starting country flavoured number which takes a while to get into its own groove and build. Ruth’s ethereal vocals float over this. The lyrics are very descriptive and suit the mood of this song well: – “O wise and beautiful tree, standing high over me, Oh the things you have seen/ Tell me your story in the garden; tell it to me in the garden.” I found this song quite haunting and a really pleasurable listening experience.
Following on from this is ‘Cold Outside’, a slow ballad based around an acoustic guitar line with additional steel guitar. This is a love song all about hoping and wanting. Ruth’s vocals are crisp, clear, and the sentiment is spot on: – “Baby it’s cold outside/ Come in and stay a while, You know you want to. You know you want to/ Baby it’s cold outside. The streets are dark and the winds are wild/ And I want you.”
Other tracks on the album that really make the grade are ‘Travellin’ Shoes’, which is best described as a country style anthem with an uplifting chorus. The lyrics, detailing the thoughts and feelings of a wanderer are again hitting the target:
“I’ve been down a dusty road, carrying a heavy load/ Made good use of these here travellin’ shoes/ Couldn’t tell you where I’ve been, but you’ll know by the shape I’m in.”
‘Never say Goodbye’ is another excellent track. A piano ballad with an almost whispered, breathy vocal, detailing the painful end to a love affair. You can almost feel the pain and hurt in Ruth’s voice as she sings: – “Were you feeling sad? I wish I’d called to say it’s not so bad/ Though I know that’s all very well to say/ I would have anyway, to try and make you stay at least another day.”
‘We Could Pretend’, was for me, easily the best track on the album, featuring acoustic guitar backed by three different electric guitars, their interplay is a real highlight. The vocals are again near perfect, detailing the problems of refusing to face up to the fact of bad things happening, and seeking solace by turning a blind eye: – “We could make ourselves immune. Play it safe and resume/ Singing ourselves the same old tune. I wonder if we will/ We could choose not to use our eyes, lose ourselves in our disguise/ Know but pretend otherwise/ And wonder still.”
Overall, I thought this was a really impressive debut, and one worthy of attention. Get hold of the album if you can. Ruth is also touring the UK as I write this, so check your venues. If she’s this good on record, she’ll certainly cut it live!