Monday, May 19, 2008

Desert Rose

Ruby James and her crack band hits the ground running on Desert Rose with full-bodied swagger with the opening track, the bluesy “The Words Goodbye”…the guitars snarl and bite and Ruby’s rich, smoky, engagingly burnished and remarkably evocative voice soothes and snaps sassily and already you’re feeling pulled in. And you like it. You like it a lot. (Well I certain did…you mileage may vary…but my money’s on Ruby winning you over.)

She seals the deal with the poignant, ruefully wistful “Everything Good Goes Away” and you’ve already surrendered to her magical spell completely. And you like it. You like it a lot.

And the music hold the spell…from the dense atmospherics of the title track to the steamy blues stroll of “Mistress of the Devil”…from the mid-tempo rock and roll of “Suicidal Serenade” (which is, its ominous title notwithstanding, a hopeful song about getting on with life despite things which might try to get you to give up) to the passionate "Passengers" to the gut-bucket rocker “When I’m Gone” (which has a groove so fierce and so relentless that it must be illegal in some states)…from the lilting acoustic sway of the reflective “Oh Mama” to the compelling closer “No Way to Love You” (with cool backing vocals and a beautiful extended instrumental coda)…from beginning to end.

I’d like to pretend I’m so hip and cool that I found Ruby James and her amazing music on my own but that just isn’t the truth (and I would never lie to you, gentle readers)… the fact is that she found me. She found me on MySpace (among Emmylou Harris’ many friends there) and sent me a friend request (any fan/friend of the wondrous Emmylou’s is automatically a friend of mine…that’s just the way that works :-) I listened to some of Ruby’s music on her on her own MySpace page (see here) and I was smitten enough to immediately order this her latest CD from her website (see here.)

And to keep the online circle of connection going I introduced some of Ruby’s music to the fine folks who visit my StumbleUpon page (see here)…the interweb is all about getting the word out about great musicians, right? (well that’s what I heard anyway…)

The band (including ace guitarist Rene Reyes and Oingo Boingo’s John Avila, who not only plays bass and keyboards but also comes to the table with stellar production work) backing her on this collection…”the story of love and faith told through the eyes of a crow and a rose”…offers wonderful, unwaveringly solid support throughout but the focus, of course, is on Ruby (however presumptuous it might be, it seems more fitting to call her that rather than “James” or “Ms. James” or some such), that voice (if you need touchstones for comparison, look to Bonnie Raitt or Patti Scialfa or some other grand lady of song with the blues flowing through their rock and roll hearts but it’s better just to listen to her without undue preconceptions), and a dozen cool songs.

Ruby (there he goes again :-) co-wrote all but 1 of the 12 tunes in this bittersweet (but never self-pitying) song cycle about love and loss. The one cover here is a killer…so tasty and so soulful…version of Chris Isaak’s “Wicked Game”.

Desert Rose is a wonderful record, heartily reccommended by your friend here at the Rainbow (if you head over to Ruby’s website or MySpace page and find yourself enthralled, tell her Michael sent you…she won’t know what that means but it’s okay :-)

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This is a cool "unplugged" version of "Everything Good Goes Away":

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