By Lee Zimmerman
It’s rare that an artist can maintain a solo career while also sustaining his or her role in an established outfit. So credit Ruth Moody with being able to do both. A lynchpin in the successful Canadian folk/roots trio the Wailin’ Jennys, she garnered kudos with her first individual outing “The Garden” in 2010. As if to prove that was no mere fluke, she strikes out again with “These Wilder Things,” an album that shows she’s more than capable of operating under her own aegis any time she chooses.
That said, it would be a misnomer to suggest that Moody spun this effort entirely on her own. An all-star collaboration in every sense, “These Wilder Things” finds such luminaries as Mark Knopfler, Jerry Douglas, Heather Masse from the Jennys and Aoife O’Donovan lending an assist, and while the results manage to maintain her inward gaze, the accompanying arrangements are striking and subtle within the same mix.
The lonesome pluck of banjo that informs the backwoods blues of Trouble and Woe, the supple combination of piano and pedal steel that add grace to Make a Change, the simple strum of Nothing Without Love and the soothing sentiments conveyed through the title track, Pockets and Trees For Skies all reflect Moody’s innate ability to mine an emotional core. Her take on Bruce Springsteen’s Dancing in the Dark is just as revealing, Moody’s tentative take transforming this arena favorite into a lonely and plaintive plea.
Inevitably, the thing that’s especially striking here is the singular sound purveyed overall, an affecting feeling of yearning, aching and desire all distilled down to one basic essence. Moody herself sums it up succinctly; “If love is everything, we got nothing without love,” she surmises as the album’s final notes fade away. Here again, Moody’s eloquent expression seems to say it all.