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Locals Only: : Rock-N-Roll Salvation

From Punk, Rock, Folk and Funk to politics and religion, Elliott Ruther's new CD is a spirited, memorable debut

By Sean Rhiney · May 4th, 2005 · Locals Only
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  Elliot Ruther Trio
Damon Green

Elliot Ruther Trio



Usually it's a musician's day job that gets in the way of unfettered dreams of Rock stardom. In songwriter Elliot Ruther's case, it was his day gig as an aide to City Councilman John Cranley that provided him with the right musical opportunities to get started on his own path.

Ruther met drummer Marvin Hawkins while interviewing him for a position in Cranley's office. The two hit it off discussing music, and later got together with bassist Joel Cotton to play a few songs at a press conference Cranley was hosting at Jefferson Hall to acknowledge Cincinnati's King Records legacy. Once Ruther saw Cotton and Hawkins play, the Elliot Ruther Trio was conceived.

"Marvin and Joel are simply amazing musicians," Ruther says. Ruther's acoustic Folk/Punk sympathies make an interesting marriage with Hawkins and Cotton's deep-rooted R&B, Hip Hop, Soul, Reggae and Funk foundations. Both sidemen continue to play in their own combos -- Hawkins with his self-titled Funk-inspired band and Cotton with Uplift I -- and their singular sense of rhythm mixes well with Ruther's spirited, edgy approach.

On ERT's debut release, Rock-N-Roll Conceived (In Cincinnati), Ruther's gig at City Hall even creeps into the songwriting. He takes a vigorous swipe at political bickering in "Yer Damn Decree" (Ruther previously offered a condemnation of public transit cuts in the unreleased "Upon Reading the Minutes of the SORTA Board"). Ruther says his politicized approach comes naturally.

"Everybody needs to let out some steam from their jobs, and my day job gives me lots of reasons to do that in song," he says. "I really like world-shaking; sometimes it's political, sometimes religious, sometimes isolated, but always interesting to me."

And with song titles like "No Grail" and biblical references littered throughout the disc, Ruther also seems to have an affinity for religious imagery. Ruther says he taught religion in a Catholic high school in Kansas City and merged his love of music with the subject matter to make things more interesting for his students. Ruther is no bible-thumper, though.

"Most so-called 'religious' music seems rather divorced from the secular realities," he observes. "To me, the experience of God is in the every day experiences."

True to form, when he started writing his own songs after a move back to Cincinnati, religion developed a more personal role for him.

"Religion and salvation was heavy on my mind," Ruther says. "I listened to a lot of Hank Williams, spirituals and Bob Dylan.

I knew that if I was going to write for myself, I would have to face my spirituality and religious struggles in song."

For the disc, Ruther enlisted former high school classmate Bob Gayol, who began recording Ruther's demos in his home studio. Gayol, who's played with Moth, The Virgins and Hip Hop collective NSPCrew, had formed his own label, Brown Room Records, and was looking for unique projects to release when he and Ruther reconnected. Gayol took the production reigns, engineered the disc and even contributed bass, guitars and drums to Ruther's demos.

The result is a potent combination of message and emotion, delivered with rawness and guided by Ruther's literate, guttural musings about his personal salvation. Sounding akin to the Violent Femmes fronted by a soulful Bob Dylan, Ruther's uncommon wordsmithery is the powerful hook in each track.

The disc's title track, a tribute to Cincinnati's rich musical history, name checks King Records and the Isley Brothers and evidences his genuine enthusiasm for the city's powerful musical roots.

"Growing up in Cincinnati, I didn't know about our great history," Ruther says. "Just to realize that I've been digging and playing tunes for years -- (not knowing) they had Cincinnati origins -- has taken me to task to find out more. There is just so much amazing music from Cincinnati; it's no wonder how incredible of a scene we have now."



THE ELLIOT RUTHER TRIO (
  Elliot Ruther Trio
Damon Green

Elliot Ruther Trio



Usually it's a musician's day job that gets in the way of unfettered dreams of Rock stardom. In songwriter Elliot Ruther's case, it was his day gig as an aide to City Councilman John Cranley that provided him with the right musical opportunities to get started on his own path.

Ruther met drummer Marvin Hawkins while interviewing him for a position in Cranley's office. The two hit it off discussing music, and later got together with bassist Joel Cotton to play a few songs at a press conference Cranley was hosting at Jefferson Hall to acknowledge Cincinnati's King Records legacy. Once Ruther saw Cotton and Hawkins play, the Elliot Ruther Trio was conceived.

"Marvin and Joel are simply amazing musicians," Ruther says. Ruther's acoustic Folk/Punk sympathies make an interesting marriage with Hawkins and Cotton's deep-rooted R&B, Hip Hop, Soul, Reggae and Funk foundations. Both sidemen continue to play in their own combos -- Hawkins with his self-titled Funk-inspired band and Cotton with Uplift I -- and their singular sense of rhythm mixes well with Ruther's spirited, edgy approach.

On ERT's debut release, Rock-N-Roll Conceived (In Cincinnati), Ruther's gig at City Hall even creeps into the songwriting. He takes a vigorous swipe at political bickering in "Yer Damn Decree" (Ruther previously offered a condemnation of public transit cuts in the unreleased "Upon Reading the Minutes of the SORTA Board"). Ruther says his politicized approach comes naturally.

"Everybody needs to let out some steam from their jobs, and my day job gives me lots of reasons to do that in song," he says. "I really like world-shaking; sometimes it's political, sometimes religious, sometimes isolated, but always interesting to me."

And with song titles like "No Grail" and biblical references littered throughout the disc, Ruther also seems to have an affinity for religious imagery. Ruther says he taught religion in a Catholic high school in Kansas City and merged his love of music with the subject matter to make things more interesting for his students. Ruther is no bible-thumper, though.

"Most so-called 'religious' music seems rather divorced from the secular realities," he observes. "To me, the experience of God is in the every day experiences."

True to form, when he started writing his own songs after a move back to Cincinnati, religion developed a more personal role for him.

"Religion and salvation was heavy on my mind," Ruther says. "I listened to a lot of Hank Williams, spirituals and Bob Dylan. I knew that if I was going to write for myself, I would have to face my spirituality and religious struggles in song."

For the disc, Ruther enlisted former high school classmate Bob Gayol, who began recording Ruther's demos in his home studio. Gayol, who's played with Moth, The Virgins and Hip Hop collective NSPCrew, had formed his own label, Brown Room Records, and was looking for unique projects to release when he and Ruther reconnected. Gayol took the production reigns, engineered the disc and even contributed bass, guitars and drums to Ruther's demos.

The result is a potent combination of message and emotion, delivered with rawness and guided by Ruther's literate, guttural musings about his personal salvation. Sounding akin to the Violent Femmes fronted by a soulful Bob Dylan, Ruther's uncommon wordsmithery is the powerful hook in each track.

The disc's title track, a tribute to Cincinnati's rich musical history, name checks King Records and the Isley Brothers and evidences his genuine enthusiasm for the city's powerful musical roots.

"Growing up in Cincinnati, I didn't know about our great history," Ruther says. "Just to realize that I've been digging and playing tunes for years -- (not knowing) they had Cincinnati origins -- has taken me to task to find out more. There is just so much amazing music from Cincinnati; it's no wonder how incredible of a scene we have now."



THE ELLIOT RUTHER TRIO (elliottruther.com) plays Saturday at the Northside Tavern with Uplift I.
 
 
 
 

 

 
 
 
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