Joe Rut – San Pedro and Sunflower
Oakland, CA-based singer-songwriter Joe Rut’s latest 11-cut streamlined acoustic-oriented set features some fine fingerpicking & deep cello strains The songs are primarily laid-back endeavors. San Pedro and Sunflower (Dropped Oct 1–Independent) features brief performances by Janie Cowan (bass/cut 1) & Val Esway (vocals/cut 1) with Joe doing just about everything else.
Some tunes while rather thin in dynamics & a little too poetic in spots do have melodies. “I Will Not Forget,” has a tinge of the late J.J. Cale that works nicely. Besides being a good song Joe uses his limited vocal range to good advantage. He creates a swampy atmosphere, set in a southern-rock blues groove stripped back like early Cale. Nothing is challenging, they are just well-played, competent & uncluttered musical pieces. Some people need bells & whistles in their listening experiences — this is not it.
“Roof Is Full of Holes,” is fine but would’ve been better without the “sung in the bathroom” echo. A nice acoustic guitar run gives it lift, lyrics are undecorated but what there is, comes with feeling. The effects of rain at the end — a nice touch since it isn’t embellished.
Nothing’s overbearing. What’s obvious, even if these should be considered high-end demos to some ears, is the songwriting. Even Jules Shear issued bare-bones albums similar to this & progressive rocker Peter Hammill with just a piano. They stated that those songs didn’t suit a full band treatment. This CD has a delicacy & Rut jumps over basic lyric cliché puddles which songs like these tend to attract.
“Amber Clear,” sounds like a song folk veteran Eric Andersen or the late David Blue would do. There is little that is striking among these 11 tunes but not everything composed in a spirited style needs to shout. These are of a reflective nature, distilled & quietly approached not from a marginal field but with moderate, amiable nurturing. It isn’t always easy to create as Bruce Springsteen learned when he attempted his “Nebraska” solo album.
Mr. Ruts’ tunes will take some repeated listening to stick in your mind. But in this collection, it soaks slowly in folk music structures that avoid controversy, novelty & silliness. It isn’t Pete Seeger; isn’t Dylan & not Burl Ives. The songs just steam in a tepid manner with warm little bubbles that clearly start to gather heat. The songs alone don’t upset any apple carts, don’t raise eyebrows, or motivate dancing. They do sound like the infancy of accessible folk songs.
Like a kite trying to catch a good wind.
Closing with a somewhat John Fahey-like short acoustic fingerpicking instrumental is “Frog’s Sunrise,” — very well done.
Highlights – “I Will Not Forget,” “Roof Is Full of Holes,” “Amber Clear,” “Pillow of Clouds,” “Fine From Here,” & “Frog’s Sunrise” Photo courtesy of Joe Rut’s website.
Music samples of music by Joe Rut & CD available @ https://joerut.bandcamp.com/album/san-pedro-and-sunflower + http://www.joerut.com/