Ruth Moody’s latest release These Wilder Things (2013 True North Records) is, well, just delightful. It’s a follow-up to her first solo outing, The Garden, which was produced by David Travers-Smith and nominated for two Juno Awards, a Western Canadian Music Award and three Canadian Folk Music Awards.
These Wilder Things, once again produced by Travers-Smith, features nine self-penned songs and one cover. Her banjo and ethereal vocals dominate proceedings. The opener “Trouble and Woe” is about those two things, but also promise and love – it’s like an embrace of life and its diversity. “One and Only” is more orchestrated, a lover’s tale. The album’s sole cover is a tip-toe version of one of Bruce Springsteen’s biggest and most commercially successful songs (and one of the biggest videos to boot), “Dancing In The Dark”. Here strings and horns provide a fresh and poignant take on this song, with some beautiful mandolin work by Jacob Jolliff (Joy Kills Sorrow) prominent at the end. On the title track, slow piano underpins the trumpet embellishment while Moody’s elegant and doleful singing is a highlight. “Trees For Skies” is about dealing with regular separation and reunion:
“How many times will you and I
Spend the whole day runnin’ around so we can say goodbye
Well I promise you, for every time I go
There will be another where I come on home”
(Living in each other’s…) “Pockets” features beautiful trademark guitar work by Mark Knopfler (for me, he and Derek Trucks are the two of the smoothest and most distinctive players going around) which is sublimely beautiful. There’s a yearning need to let go and reconstruct in “Make A Change” which contains some nice subtle pedal steel from Joshua Grange. “One Light Shining” features dobro maestro Jerry Douglas, backing vocals by Aoife O’Donovan. “Life Is Long” is a stunningly beautiful track with Mike McGoldrick’s low whistle tenderly glorious. The albums ends much as it began – “Nothing Without Love” is largely vocals and banjo, a distillation of Moody’s deft skill and touch.
This is a wonderful collection, one which I would thoroughly recommend. You might want to purchase this album, or go see her on her impending tour of Australia, or maybe do both!
Ruth was kind enough to answer some questions from yours truly.
Hi Ruth. Congratulations on your latest release These Wilder Things, which I think has just been released in Australia to coincide with your tour. The album was released elsewhere in 2013. How has it been received in those markets?
I started it as soon as I had a bit of a break from touring. I had a bunch of songs, and my band had been touring for a year, and it just felt like the right time to bring it to the studio. About half of it was captured in a live off the floor setting, and the other half was more of a creative layering process for me and David. I’m really proud of the result. It’s an intimate and emotional record; I gave my whole self to it. It has some special guests on it. Mark Knopler lends his inimitable guitar on one song, and sings on it too.
You chose David Travers-Smith as producer again and there’s plenty of mention of his contribution on the album’s liner notes. Obviously, you work well together. Tell me about your relationship in the studio.
He is a wonderful producer and engineer- a really special musician with ears of gold. We have very similar musical brains so it was always very easy to communicate in the studio. That said, David is always interested in pushing things in new creative and sonic directions. Because the trust was there, it was easy for me to be open to that.
I understand you supported Mark Knopfler a while back and he is a big fan of your work. How did you get two other guests on the record, Jerry Douglas and Aoife O’Donovan, involved in the project?
Mark approached me a few years ago about singing on his album, Privateering, which was the first time we worked together. Since then we’ve supported some shows for him in Europe, a huge honour, needless to say. I also sing on his upcoming record, Tracker, which I’m very excited about. I met Jerry Douglas through the Transatlantic sessions at Celtic Connections in Glasgow and we talked about doing something together, much to my delight. So I took him up on it for this record. Aoife and I have been friends for years and love to sing together whenever we get the chance!
“Dancing In The Dark” is the only cover on the album – a very interesting choice given it was such a massive hit for Springsteen. Why did you choose that song and, in particular, your bold and refreshing treatment of it?
I’m a big Springsteen fan. I just learned it for fun one day, I thought it would be fun to put a folky spin on his biggest hit, and I also thought it would be interesting to have the song sung from a female perspective. When I brought it to the band we thought it would lend itself well to a sort of chamber-grass approach, and it kind of took on a life of its own from there.
You have very strong links with Australia, but I read you have not graced our shores since a Wailin’ Jennys tour in 2006. Apart from catching up with family and friends, what are you looking forward to most when you return to Australia?
Well I won’t lie – I’m looking forward to some sun! And I’m just looking forward to bringing the music to this land that has always had a really special place in my heart. I’ve spent a lot of time in Australia on trips that weren’t music related, during important times of growth in my life, so I’m looking forward to reconnecting with that experience a little.
I understand you are bringing a three-piece band with you and all members performed on These Wilder Years which will provide nice continuity – tell us about the band and its members.
Yes, my incredible band! They are: Adrian Dolan on fiddle, viola, mandolin, and mandola; Adam Dobres on electric and acoustic guitars; and Sam Howard on upright bass. They are such versatile musicians and together we cover a lot of ground – from a spacious and dreamy singer-songwriter vibe, to the string-heavy chamber-grass sound I mentioned, to straight-up driving old-time gospel. They all sing too.
Thanks for your time – look forward to seeing you in Australia in Feb/March!
RUTH MOODY AUSTRALIAN TOUR DATES
Thursday 19 February
With guests The Mae Trio
19 Marrickville Rd, Marrickville NSW
Tickets $27.70. From 7pm.
Friday 20 February
With guests The Mae Trio
69 Princes Hwy, Milton NSW
Tickets $34. From 8pm
Saturday 21 February
Candelo Town Hall
With guest Heath Cullen
William St, Candelo, NSW
Tickets $35/$30. From 7.30pm
Sunday 22 February
Indi Valley Music
With guest Sal Kimber (solo)
Tickets $30. From 6pm
Wednesday 25 February
The Red Room
130 Barkly Street, Ararat, Vic
Tickets TBA. From 7pm.
Thursday 26 February
Trinity Sessions (Adelaide Fringe)
318 Goodwood Rd Clarence Park, SA
Tickets $36/$33. From 7pm
Friday 27 February
Mojo’s – With Jordie Lane
237 Queen Victoria St, North Fremantle WA
Tickets $29.60. From 8pm
Saturday 28 February & Sunday 1 March
Nannup Folk Festival
Wednesday 4 March
Melbourne Folk Club @ Bella Union Trades Hall
54 Victoria St, Carlton VIC
Tickets $30 / $28 members
Thursday 5 March
The Caravan Club
With guests The Mae Trio
95 – 97 Drummond St, Oakleigh VIC
Tickets from $28 + bf, $35 + bf reserved seats. From 8pm
Friday 6 March – Sunday 8 March
Port Fairy Folk Festival