Reviews:: Ruth Minnikin & Her Bandwagon Depend On This

Ruth Minnikin and the bands she played in were always ahead of the curve. I mean, Booming Airplanes got signed to EMI when she was barely out of high school and without a doubt, if The Guthries were making music today in the “everybody wants to be a rootsy, lap steel heavy, cowboy shirt wearing music player” they’d be huge. That same “what if” type pondering could easily be applied to the orchestral pop The Heavy Blinkers delivered so well.

So even though Ruth’s solo work was strongly rooted in the realm of folk, it’s not surprising she refuses to sit still. The first half of her new record - Depend on This - hits me the way the same way Jets To Brazil’s Perfecting Loneliness did. Even with the strides and fleshed out sound the band made, it was the perfect summation to Blake’s evolution from the early days of Jawbreaker to his more mellow, melodic stylings under the JTB moniker. For Ruth and her friends, the tracks still dabble in the country, down home sounds we’ve come to expect, but she fuses that traditional feel with the lush orchestration and quirkiness you could find on a Blinkers effort.

Orchestral horns blasts and group vocals stand on equal footing as steel guitar and. Tracks like Theme Song and Sleeping and Dreaming expose Ruth’s more playful side, where as Four Churches moves into the chamber pop realm and Animals of Bremen is about as traditional as Ruth gets this time out, but the meticulously arrangements she constructs help weave the songs together in a warm, multicolored quilt. Perhaps the standout is the blissful title track that uses terrific horns and steel during the verses before exploding into a sing-along chorus.

Even if this effort was a simple, six-song EP you’d feel satisfied after each listen, but what really stands out is the progression in sound she made for this record. The b-side of Depend on This will shock even her oldest fans as it finds Ruth exploring an end of the evening vibe thanks to her ambient, atmospheric collaborations with Dreamspolitation’s Chuck Blazevic. She revisits each of the themes and titles of the A-side of the record in a completely new fashion, transforming each in a way that inspires and challenges the listener, but never loses them.

The flute that makes an appearance on Theme Song II and the hand claps and heavy plucked bass line of Sleeping and Dreaming II peak your interest, but the echo-y horns and computer effects on the later are what really takes you into a more magical, dream like swirl. The first few tracks on the second side are shocking and enjoyable, but the effort peaks on Four Churches II. The smooth horns, hand clap beat and rapid fire synth all dance around terrific vocals, swooning strings and and terrific, long bended guitar notes and really demonstrates how effortless Ruth could find a home in this new style. She follows up with the click clack, flute filled Depend on This II, a track that never moves past a brisk shuffle but spikes the record with energy and emotion.

Amazingly, even with all Chuck’s electro flourishes she still manages to hold true to the spirit and soul of the original versions. Animals of Bremen II still feels traditional - especially when the piano ends the track - even though it’s filled with computer effects and a heavier bass line. I’ll be honest. This isn’t the record I expected from Ruth, but I’m not complaining. The funny thing is, just when you think you know where Ruth is going to reside, she shifts and her next record could be recorded in a farmhouse, a disco, on a bus or with Symphony Nova Scotia playing behind her. That’s the great thing about a creative spirit. You never know where it’s going or where it will end up, but you know the risks will end up in rewards for the us all… it just might take us a few months to catch up.

MP3:: Ruth Minnikin - Four Churches II



This entry was posted on Friday, December 4th, 2009 at 8:31 am and is filed under Best-of '09, Halifax, Music, Reviews, Ruth Minnikin. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.

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One Response to “Reviews:: Ruth Minnikin & Her Bandwagon Depend On This”

Michelle December 16th, 2009 at 10:40 am

Love this, thanks for sharing! Wish I could see Ruth tonight. Looking forward to listening to her album.

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