Having been an inhabitant of the Left Coast all of my life, the concept of house concerts are a bit alien to me, but after listening to Mista Ruddy (Matthew, in real life), I get it. Basically, you throw a party and ask that those attending toss in a few bucks to pay for entertainment, in Ruddy's case that being ol' Ruddy himself. Now, I have no idea whether that was the system whereby this CD came about, but it's close enough. Of course, rooftops were substituted for living rooms here and there (if tried out here, the performers would slide off, pretty much) and whereas the ambience may have been somewhat different, the music itself didn't suffer.
Ruddy seems to confine himself to amped acoustic guitar and is the center of all music, but he joins a handful of others on various tracks, mostly percussionists. In a way, it is too bad because the two tracks on which vocals are added and the one which has a guest guitar are high points, possibly because of the semi-ensemble feel. Natalie Jane Valentine Hatcher plays counter-sound to Ruddy's lower register voice on In the Morning, her voice crisp and bright next to Ruddy's more textured one. Straight upbeat folk which plays well live. M&M Improv sounds improvised (as well it might have been), with Matthew Masterson singing out of reach of the mike until Ruddy calls for him to step up, all caught on tape--- or digitizer, maybe. Could this be folk-rap? No, it is singing and not talking, but the lyrics could have been produced on the fly. It sounds like it and is pretty good, actually, simple chord progression giving voices a chance to play with words and rhythm. Brinton Moore steps in on electric guitar on G-DAC, which has to be the chord progression, and works his way through a rough beginning to lay down some nice licks, simple though they be. Instrumentally, Ruddy and Moore were on the same page and while nothing super-spectacular, it is five minutes of laid back instrumental which probably fit well into a rooftop setting.
The rest of the fifteen tracks are original Ruddy's as well and while some are better than others, there is enough here to make me think he has something to offer. It does sound as if the recordings were done in house party situations and as a result they are a bit rough and raw-edged, but that can be a good thing for it does capture a bit of the evening, if nothing else. Chords are bumbled occasionally and the vocals are not letter-perfect (he practically hocks a lugie on one track and it fits the song well), but that is the gift of a live performance. It would indeed be a boring music world in which all vocals and guitar parts were the same every time.
In short, if you don't mind your folk rough and live, this might well be worth a listen. Better yet, if he ever plays a rooftop in your area, stop in. He sounds like a pretty nice guy and that counts as much as anything else sometimes.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
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