Ruth Wyand and the Tribe of One at one with the blues

Ruth Wyand and The Tribe Of One is a one-woman band from the portentously named Kill Devil Hills in North Carolina and she has been playing for a few years now, although her previous releases Distant Drums, Greetings From Your Far Away Girl, It’s Time For Me to Go and Through The Bottle Neck have, I’m ashamed to say somehow passed me by. Having listened to this latest release and her complex picking style, alternating thumb bass, bottleneck slide, multiple foot drums and her blues vocal style, I will be correcting that oversight very soon. She utilises a number of guitars, a snare and foot drums plus, no normal sstompbox for Ms Wyand…she has an old suitcase with a foot pedal to attack it with and, believe me, the resonance and tone it generates is brilliant! Now, I am not going to bang on (pun intended) about the male equivalents or the relative dearth of female one person bands…I don’t give a flying fig about gender…it is all about how well the music is composed and played and, in the (suit)case of one-person bands, it is the ability to fill out the songs without breaking the flow and with the necessary flair to carry the tunes…the vocals and the instruments must be in sync and not, as some do, stop one while the other carries on. On the evidence on Tribe of One, this lady is definitely more than capable.

Kicking off with Bad Mojo, we straightaway get a feel for the undoubted skills on display as all of the tracks were recorded live, sans overdubs. This song shows her dexterity on the guitar for sure and it is a lovely picked acoustic with only a simple beat behind it and her light vocal works well even if it isn’t exceptional…but when she combines chords and picking on the solo, all is forgiven. Break The Curse is next and brings the snare and foot drum into play along with an electric guitar and here it shows her deftly playing a ‘bass’ line at the same time as the chords. The solo has distinct 50s blues feel to it and is entertaining and varied courtesy of the occasional use of the tremolo arm. The Last Nail moves into slow blues territory with a purposely unusual note injected into the chord picking. The vocals are again a little light where the feel and atmosphere would have normally been a lot gruffer than her sweetness…it is still a nice song with the guitar played with a sense of texture and pathos. Better Off Alone brings the bottleneck into play with a Sylvester style of blues that is a real pleasure. The solo is paced well and sounds just great. Help My Soul Survive is acoustic blues with minimal backing…once again the enjoyment comes from the expressiveness of the guitar and the tones Ruth manages to get out of them. Till It’s Safe To Go Outside stays acoustic but with a basic melody that, if electrified by a full band would be blues-rock…but it works well as the sparse snare and occasional foot drum over that guitar work really well…especially when she hits the strings so hard the resonance can be heard and felt. The Bob Dylan penned ode to Blind Willie McTell is perfectly suited to Ruth’s style and approach; the central acoustic picking solo is excellent too. Love On The Line Blues brings humour to the lyrics, while the guitar this time has a countrified feel in the complex chord patterns. The solo is another clever counterpointing of bass and picking. I Don’t Have Proof is slide guitar done well…I’m not sure of the tuning she employs (open D?) but it sounds pretty damn good as a single string slide or multiples thereof. 100 Proof brings percussion on the guitar body as well as via the pedals into play as we get a Cooder-ish style to the mix of strumming and slide. We even get some John Lee “how, how, hows” too. Bravery to the fore as we now get Ruth’s acoustic take on the Hendrix classic, Little Wing. The playing is brilliant and takes the melody in hand and makes it work well in her style. The vocals however, let it down a little as the phrasing and spoken bits don’t quite work…listen to the solo though, and it is definitely replay fodder. Broken Woman has more percussion to give this straightforward yet complex blues a bit of depth and bite. Next up is an instrumental take on the Etta Baker classic, Mint Julep. It works very well too with the acoustic taking the melody and rehashing it in a clever way that shows the thumb bass to great effect. The album closes with another instrumental, On The Porch With Etta…listening to the slide and picking it could be either Baker again or even James…either way it is my firm favourite simply because of the tone the bottleneck adds to a neat and catchy melody.

This is a thoroughly enjoyable album that, even with the relative weakness in some of the vocals and the underutilisation of her battery of percussion, is still one that will stay on the iPod and be enjoyed whenever any of them crop up…and I will find more of her work.

EIGHTpawprint half inchdoodle paws out of TEN …

Track listing:

  1. Bad Mojo (working overtime)
  2. Break The Curse
  3. The Last Nail
  4. Better Off Alone
  5. Help My Soul Survive
  6. Till It’s Safe To go Outside
  7. Blind Willie McTell (Dylan)
  8. Love On The Line Blues
  9. I Don’t Have Proof
  10. Little Wing (Hendrix)
  11. Broken Woman
  12. Mint Julep (Etta Baker)
  13. On The Porch With Etta

All songs by

Ruth Wyalnd except where noted.

Musician:

Ruth Wyand: all guitars, vocals and foot drums

Recorded at

Dock Diving Dog Studio
Ruth Wyand and the Tribe of One at one with the blues

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