Album Reviews

The Mike + Ruthy Band

Bright As You Can

Artist:     The Mike + Ruthy Band

Album:     Bright As You Can

Label:     Thirty Tigers

Release Date:     06/02/2015

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First impressions matter, and judging by the name alone, The Mike + Ruthy Band might offer the impression that they’re smack full of homespun sentiments and down home designs. To a certain extent, that’s an accurate assessment.

Ballads and bluegrass are certainly part of the mix, be it the shimmering steel guitar tempered “Chasin’ Gold” and “Freckled Ocean,” or the opening good time romp of “Bright As You Can.” However, the pair is far more diverse than your average back porch combo, and while a song like “The Ghost of Richard Manuel” may give a hint as to where their sentiments lie, other tracks suggest easy categorization isn’t necessarily the best option. The sweep and sway of “Word on the Street,” the horn-infused “Rock on Little Jane” and “Golden Eye,” and the full-on assault of “What Are We Waiting For” dismiss any suggestion that Mike + Ruthy are too laidback to exert their musical muscle.

Nevertheless, the album’s center piece is the one track that finds Bright As You Can reduced to shades of gray. “Legends Only Appear in Black & White” provides a ghostly homage to those that have been here and gone, a song that quotes tradition and offers ominous overtures in the process. It’s that ability to go beyond the boundaries that allow The Mike + Ruthy Band to temper their folk finesse and do so with such skill, they’re actually able to set themselves apart.

-Lee Zimmerman

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