I cut my teeth listening to Joan Baez and Pete Seeger, and knew all the words to at least a half-dozen Woody Guthrie songs before I went to school, so when folk music comes across my desk and it’s not of old-school character, I tend to shy away. However, I found Ruth Moody’s new album, These Wilder Things, to be an interesting mix of old and newer pop styles, with quite a bit of character.
Moody, an award-winning folk singer from Winnipeg, has a lovely voice that changes with each type of song. She can sound remarkably like Loreena McKennitt, then switch to Edie Brickell, then switch up again to sound like Natalie Imbruglia. Her rendition of Springsteen’s “Dancing in the Dark” is catchy, but at the same time strange in that it incorporates different rhythms, pauses, and instruments than the listener is used to – it turns out what I thought was a ukulele is actually a mandolin, and mandolin is not what I normally think of when I think of Springsteen.
While some of the tracks can have that old-school flair of guitar and banjo, the songs never lapse into the deep-country twanginess that scares many people away from folk music. Most of the music is quite mainstream, a blend of soft pop that would be totally at home on WRCH or any soft-music station.
My favorite track is perhaps the first one, “Trouble and Woe,” because I like the light touch of banjo that to me signifies folk music. Not enough to make you break out reruns of Hee Haw, but a gentle touch to give depth to the guitar work. “Trees for Skies” is pretty, and of course “Dancing in the Dark” will stick in your head, a new twist on an old favorite – and this time you can understand all the words!