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Melissa Ruth issues a brilliant LP in “Meteor” 


Fusing elegant vocals, magnetizing grooves and an old school roots rock aesthetic, Melissa Ruth issues a brilliant LP in Meteor that is thoroughly steeped in surreal Americana. In the opening strut of “West,” Ruth casts a sonic spell over us with her smoky drawl, enamoring us with a subtle rhythm in the backdrop that will be revisited later on in the title track, “Hey Mr. Bartender” and the ominous “Broken Heart,” and though the music of Meteor tends to follow a particular formula, it’s far from a predictable pop affair. Melissa Ruth is channeling troubadours of the past here, but doing so in a way that is wholly forward-thinking.

“Sugar Pill,” the seductive “Take It All,” and the humble ballad “You Are Not Alone” are driven by their instrumental framework, while “Free Your Life,” “Goodbye Again” and “Long Haul Heartbreak” center more on their lyrical content than anything else. Ruth appoints every strand of melodic ribbonry in these tracks with an understated prose that, most notably in the case of “Goodbye Again” and “West,” flirts with postmodernity but steers clear of overindulgence. There’s a lot of components to all of the songs present here, and no two utilize the same means of hypnotizing us.


Meteor sports a very progressive fluidity, and to a certain extent, its eleven tracks feel like an ongoing story being told through incredible textures, vintage tonality and sublime poetry that is both relatable and self-aware on the part of Ruth. The title track spills right into “Goodbye Again,” and in many ways, it would almost feel wrong to listen to “The Knot” without starting off with “Take It All” and finishing in “You Are Not Alone.” It’s not a straight concept piece, but at the very least, it makes it clear that Melissa Ruth wouldn’t have a hard time delivering something that ambitious in nature at all.

There’s a lot of muscle in the overdriven fretwork that dominates “Free Your Life,” and it’s only rivaled by the beefy basslines in “Long Haul Heartbreak” and the calculated “Hey Mr. Bartender.” Not all of Meteor is saturated in vicious grooving though; “The Knot,” “Sugar Pill” and “Goodbye Again” are much more conservative by design, and largely balance out the thunder of the more abrasive tracks perfectly. We never know what’s about to come roaring out of the silence in the next song, but in every instance, it’s just as enthralling as whatever preceded it.

Melissa Ruth’s Meteor is unquestionably one of the smartest folk/rock records of 2019 so far, and it offers us a hearty glimpse into all of the incredible potential that she brings with her into the studio as a relative unknown to mainstream audiences. This isn’t her first release, but it definitely sees her honing her skills with more proficiency than she’s ever demonstrated before. Her story is only just now beginning to unfold, and for my money, it’s yielding some of the most intoxicating sounds of the spring on either side of the dial. She’s making big waves, but with a voice like hers, I suppose that was ultimately inevitable.


Mindy McCall



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