Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Ruth Moody -- The Garden

The Garden
Red House Records

Ruth Moody grew up in a Winnipeg-based family that studied and played classical music. Drawn to folk music, she first made her mark on the folk scene as the lead singer of a Celtic-oriented band called Scruj MacDuhk.

Shortly after Scruj MacDuhk broke up, Ruth got together with Cara Luft and Nicky Mehta and formed the sublimely harmonious Wailin’ Jennys which, despite Cara’s early departure – she was replaced by Annabelle Chvostek who was later replaced by Heather Masse -- has become and remained one of the most popular folk groups of the past decade.

The Garden, a kind of chamber-folk album that reflect Ruth’s interests in folk and roots-oriented pop music as well as her classically-influenced background, is her first full-length solo release and it’s a set of fine compositions made riveting by her intimate arrangements – she variously plays guitar, banjo, piano, ukulele and accordion, and surrounds herself with some excellent musicians and harmony singers – and lovely soprano voice.

While I quite enjoy the entire CD, my favourite songs include “The Garden,” which opens like a solo Appalachian folksong with Ruth singing to her banjo but builds into a gorgeous full stringband arrangement featuring the members of Crooked Still, including Aoife O’Donovan on harmony vocals; “Never Said Goodbye,” a lovely, lonely, piano-and-strings ballad that seems so reminiscent of my late friend Kate McGarrigle; and “Closer Now,” which reminds me of Ruth’s best work with the Wailin’ Jennys (and which features gorgeous harmonies from Jenny-mates Nicky Mehta and Heather Masse).

--Mike Regenstreif

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