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Live Review: Ruth Moody @ The Birchmere — 5/23/24

Ruth Moody, well-known as a member of The Wailin’ Jennys, is currently on tour promoting her new album Wanderer. It’s a splendid album of tracks written about her life in music, travel, and living and learning in today’s fast-paced musical world — and she played some of it live at The Birchmere recently.

Wanderer is a sincere introspection with songs of depth and true personal meaning. The joy associated with the making of this album was deeply felt during Ruth’s Birchmere performance on May 23, as her soft and beautiful voice resonated well in the hallow halls of The Birchmere.

Ruth has played The Birchmere numerous times in the past with The Wailin’ Jennys, and solo, but this show had a special meaning as she was performing this very personal album of new songs.

The tone of the show was set at the onset as Ruth casually strolled on stage and joked playfully about the well-behaved crowd, which was extremely quiet as the show began, but affirmed her comments with laughter at this point.

Moody assured the crowd The Wailin’ Jennys were still together as they were taking a break as she completes her solo tour. Moody emphasized the need for this album to document her personal journey and described the project as the “spirits calling her home” while she has been living in Nashville but admitted the stress of her musical journey was accentuated by the creation of her own record label, which does have its good times and tough times but being worth the journey when being able to perform at these shows, such as this one at The Birchmere.

For the show, Moody was joined on stage by Anthony da Costa on guitar and her husband Sam Howard on Bass.

The band played great together as the guitar work of da Costa is a special blend of the presentation, working very well with Howard on standing bass. The show included two-sets of stellar music and song with a break for fans to get up and move about The Birchmere, one of the finest venues in America.

The second set began with a classic piece called “Michigan” — a song of love, and hope, a theme resonating throughout the show. Moody described the song as one she wrote while pregnant and nervous and feeling trepidation as she was experiencing how things can change in one’s lifetime at a time when she lived in Portland before eventually settling into Nashville during the last few years.

Stream “Michigan” by Ruth Moody on YouTube:

Moody conversed well with the persons watching the show throughout the entire evening talking about this perhaps hectic journey she has been on, whether it is change, love, or the special love she has for her son. Her banjo playing was fantastic to watch and helped listeners to feel the dynamics of the songs played with this instrument. Moody’s words, and voice is actually heard more clearly with the banjo I believe.

One of the fun parts of the show occurred with Moody discussing her early days in the music business and being in the Canadian band known as Scruj MacDuhk, a folk band from her home of Winnipeg. Moody got the crowd rolling in laughter describing the 5-hours it took to drive to Louisiana for a show playing Irish and Scottish songs and two-stepping with total strangers at a bar known as the “The Mermaid Lounge”, that did not exist, except in Moody’s mind, and songwriting. This song happened to be one of the songs that was a real highlight of the evening and led to at least one set of fans venturing down to Louisiana themselves looking for this fictitious place.

Moody told the crowd “I love writing about dance halls.” This discussion of travel, writing catchy songs, and Moody’s touring for the last 25 years helped lead to her current album being written. “Wanderer,” the title track from the new LP, also helps set the pace of this album and defines the yearning for her homeland of Canada as she elaborated on as sometimes the journey can be unsettling leading to more defined yearning or feeling for one’s home.

The real highlight of the evening and the album for me was the song titled “The Spell of the Lilac Bloom.” On the album, this track is a song Moody plays with Joey Landreth, which highlights their individual strengths and beautiful harmonies together — a splendid song of love and yearning that got great reception being played live at The Birchmere without Landreth being on stage.

Moody and band closed out the spectacular show with Springsteen’s “Dancing in the Dark”, a fantastic cover that I hope Springsteen hears eventually if not already. Moody’s new album is a great compilation of songs with definitive personal meaning, music, and vocals, and one that should get great reception, and be heard live.

Catch Ruth Moody on tour!

Here are some photos of Ruth Moody of The Wailin’ Jennys in a solo show at The Birchmere on May 23, 2024. All pictures copyright and courtesy of James Todd Miller.


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