CD Review: ‘The Rue’ by The Rue

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In school I learned that to be taken more seriously you should always preface yourself by citing your bias. I don’t want to lead any of you astray, so I will say up front that I’ve been a huge fan of Chris DeGarmo’s work since Queensrÿche. His band Spys4Darwin with members of Alice In Chains; his collaboration with Dredg, which even led to several songs in the independent film Expiration Date; as well as his work with Matt Messina and the inspiring Amy Ogmundson have all held special places in my heart. So when I heard that he and his daughter, Rylie, were writing together, I was ecstatic! A live video of the duo surfaced several years ago and the songs were, quite simply, exciting. But that video came and went without any signal of things to come. To my surprise and pleasure, the pair emerged quite suddenly a few weeks ago with an EP. I invite you to join me as we talk about the self-titled release and its creators, The Rue.

The Rue EP is a mostly acoustic journey. Rylie’s vocals are comforting and cradled by the embrace of her father’s tasteful guitar playing. Each song is performed so intimately, you get the feeling her voice is right up to your ear. We’re swept away in a sea of romance, but maybe not the kind you usually hear about. Far from words about physical love, the majority of these tracks touch upon love and how we deal with it in our minds. The games we play, the distances we create, even when none truly exist, and the uneasiness that we bring to our relationships are all covered within. The conviction that shines through in Rylie’s voice carries the music up and away, giving you the feeling that she’s a truly old soul. And there is really no one that could hold this together finer than Chris, whose beautiful phrasing and unique chord voicings make him an indispensable part of this duo. We’re never treated to any guitar solos, though a swelling bridge sneaks into the slightly electrified “Sweet Love,” teasing our senses while allowing Rylie’s singing to capture us without competition.

This six-song EP has been a welcome friend to me these last few weeks. There is a soothing that it brings, with just a kick of sass, and more romanticism than I’ve heard in quite a while. Perhaps my favorite tune of the bunch is the closer, “Sap,” which is more storytelling than anything else found here. It presents an air of hope and human togetherness that struck a chord with me from the moment I had heard it. I know this is not the return to music for Chris DeGarmo that many are expecting, but I would urge you to open your ears and your mind and give it a listen. I believe you’ll enjoy yourself more than you could imagine. The Rue, and their EP, have offered a brief respite from daily life with music that will surely elicit childlike wonder within you if you’re prepared to lower your defenses. I, for one, have happily shed my calloused skin and am ready for more.

 

For more on The Rue, visit:
Official Website
Purchase The Rue EP:  From The Band
Purchase the “Love Song” music video: From The Band
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Paul Durham acoustic show at Smith’s Olde Bar Jan. 10

Paul Durham, of alternative rock band Black Lab, made a stop in Atlanta on Jan. 10, playing an intimate acoustic show at Smith’s Olde Bar. Durham, who has breathed new life into his band with the release of latest album A Raven Has My Heart, greeted his fans as if they were old friends before taking the stage with only his guitar and voice.

Durham began the set with “Tomorrow,” a song, fittingly, from the acoustic album Unplugged. The small room was filled with his commanding and haunting vocals, despite the inevitable noise from the band playing above him. But Durham’s fans only had eyes (and ears) for him, their cheers and screams effectively drowning out the noise as Durham continued with “Wash It Away,” Black Lab’s first radio hit from 1997’s Your Body Above Me.

Durham took a moment to tell the audience that the night’s performance was dedicated to the loss of a loved one, and that most of the songs he would be playing were originally written for her, before beginning the stunningly beautiful “Love to Love You,” from 2010’s Two Strangers. “Time Ago,” “Ghost In Your Mind,” and “Fall (Shadows and Blinds)” continued the set. One look around the room was proof of the raw emotion Durham is able to achieve in his music, that emotion mirrored on many faces in the crowd.

Though A Raven Has My Heart is a highly electronic album, Durham was able to reinvent several songs acoustically such as “Unfamiliar Sky,” “Gravity,” and “Further,” before bringing it back to 2007’s Passion Leaves A Trace, with “This Night” and “Mine Again.”

Durham left his devoted fans wanting more and he’d hardly stepped from the stage before the crowd coaxed him back out for an encore. “Circus Lights,” from 2005’s See The Sun, seemed to be the perfect choice, with everyone in the room singing back every word.

von Grey at Eddie’s Attic Nov. 13

von Grey brought its folk-alternative sound to Eddie’s Attic Nov. 13, selling out the venue easily in their hometown of Atlanta. The band, comprised of four classically trained sisters, has steadily been on the rise, scoring appearances on both David Letterman and Conan O’Brien last year, as well as opening for the likes of Sarah McLachlan and Lindsay Stirling.

Wyatt Espalin kicked off the night, charming the audience from the very start of his set, performing songs from his debut album The Pardon. Hailing from Hiawassee, Ga., Espalin’s folk/country/bluegrass sound was interspersed with amusing stories about each song. His fiery fiddle playing was rivaled only by his unique vocals, accompanied by a backing banjo as he joked that “Contest the Will” was definitely not about his own family and reminisced about growing up on the Ocoee River before the gorgeous “Ocoee.” Espalin’s set was over much too soon with “Waterfalls,” and he left the stage to enormous applause.

Then it was on to the highlight of the evening; the von Grey sisters took the stage clad in the signature dark clothes that seem to reflect a certain darkness in their music, picked up their respective instruments and launched into “Keep It Cool,” the opening track from the band’s 2013 EP Awakening. The audience was clearly hooked from that very first song, just sitting back and taking in von Grey’s expansive sound that encompasses folk, alternative and just the right amount of bluegrass, along with stunning harmonies that are like no other. An exquisite cover of Damien Rice’s “Volcano” moved things along before the band returned to its own material, such as “Deliverance” and “All I Know.” Co-lead vocalists Annika and Fiona took turns wowing the crowd with their impressive range, while Petra and Kathryn provided percussion and cello, respectively. The four sisters displayed an amazing sense of musicianship throughout the night, from Annika’s violin and banjo to Fiona’s acoustic guitar and fiddle, Kathryn’s effortless switch from cello to mandolin and Petra’s keys and percussion, producing a sound that is von Grey’s own.

Another cover, this time Nickel Creek’s “When In Rome” was a highlight of the night and “Death” was a more uplifting song than it sounds. Before the song, Fiona joked, “We’re happy people, can’t you tell by our sunny wardrobe?” gesturing to her black clothes. “Reborn,” “Slipping,” and “Katie” came next before the sisters announced that they only had time for one more song, though the crowd was clamoring for more. “This song might be a bit sexist, but it works,” Fiona told the audience before an unexpected cover of Tom Jones’ “She’s a Lady” ended the stellar performance.

Wyatt Espalin

von Grey