Doo-wop twang artist Melissa Ruth is embarking on an annual pilgrimage to the West Kootenay to play a trio of shows in Kaslo, Nelson and Winlaw in support of her latest album Riding Mercury.
“The temperature goes up, the temperature goes down,” said Ruth, explaining what the album’s title means to her. “Most of the songs in the album explore that idea of really high highs, and really low lows, and how we’re always riding it out.”
Ruth said audiences can expect an intimate performance.
“There is a vulnerability to many of the songs on this record so I am looking forward to having the opportunity to play these songs in cozy listening spaces. As a songwriter, I love making that creative and personal connection with my audience. I don’t always get to do that when I’m performing with a full band.”
Shortly after the success of her last album Ain’t No Whiskey, Ruth was experiencing a number of personal and professional successes when her mother became seriously ill. She grappled with stress and depression, and that soul-searching was the creative impetus behind Riding Mercury.
“Some of the songs are really dark, and some not so much. But they’re all bound by this idea,” she said.
Ruth, who grew up in Winlaw and started out as an acoustic singer-songwriter, has started to take inspiration from New Orleans’ music. “During the time we were making Ain’t No Whiskey, I was listening to a lot of New Orleans music. They’ve got culture. History. Soul. Pain. And the heat, I mean I’ve never been but I’ve always had this romantic notion of it. I’m in love with this city I’ve never been to,” she said.
“I guess I was feeling really Pacific Northwest-y, cold, miserable and rainy. I was romanticizing this place full of passion, soul and lust.”
At first she resisted the idea of getting better sound and music equipment.
“I’m a bit of a purist. My opinion has always been who needs a great sounding guitar if you’re writing good songs? I’ll just pound it on my acoustic. This was like 10 years ago. But then, accidentally, believe it or not, I bought a guitar that changed everything for me.”
That’s when she developed her sound, which she calls doo-wop twang.
“When we go to the blues club and play blues, they’re like ‘that’s not blues’. And when we’re in the country bar playing country they’re like ‘that’s not country’,” she said.
But her sound is still distinctly rural, and many of her tracks are sparse and instrumental.
“I’m hugely influenced by the fact I grew up around mountains and rivers. There’s not a shred of urbanism in my music,” she said.
Ruth will play a show at Blue Belle Bistro in Kaslo at 8 p.m. on Friday, October 17. The next day she’ll be at Sleep is for Sissies in Winlaw at 6:30 p.m. Her Nelson show at Cafe Momento is on Tuesday, October 21 at 8 p.m.
For more information visit melissaruthmusic.com.