"This artist (and company) can expect a very bright future ahead" -WYCE Music Journal

BEND SOURCE July 2015

Source Suggests: A music teacher from Eugene, Melissa Ruth has some musical chops. Together with The Likely Stories, the band plays what they call "doo-wop twang," which features a bluesy feel mixed with country and gritty rock and roll. Ruth herself wrote, produced, and arranged the band's latest album Riding Mercury, making her a whirlwind of talent both on stage and behind the scenes.

MODESTO VIEW July 2015

Melissa is honestly one of the most talented people I know. She plays a gaggle of different instruments, she writes beautiful songs, and can sing like an angel with one broken wing, tugging at your heart strings like no other I have heard.


3RD COAST MUSIC July 2014

There’s some sensational music here, but the main attractions are Melissa Ruth’s vocals and songs, and it would be hard to overpraise either of them. Like Dayna Kurtz, she gets inside her songs, her sultry voice extracting every possible nuance, while the songs themselves are quite extraordinary, almost every one a standout, the most arresting being Summer Nights In New Orleans, underpinned by De Vol’s fretless bass, High Brow Blues, augmented by Talon Nansel’s trombone, and, taking pride of place, Who’s Your Lover, five minutes of perfectly realized desolation that puts Melissa Ruth up there with Lucinda Williams and Mary Gauthier at their best. I may not have been knocked sideways this time round, but I am massively impressed.

AMERICAN ROOTS UK July 2014

This is a tremendous album, at least the equal of their previous, ‘Ain’t No Whiskey,’ which received a 4.5 star rating when I reviewed that. This album has the quality and balance of albums by artists such as Steely Dan, although sounding nothing like them. Having said that, their style is just as generically indeterminate as the Dans and Melissa’s beautiful expressive vocals have a much broader scope than Donald Fagen’s! Excellent songs, beautifully sung and expertly played with the influenes and comparisons ranging through country, blues, jazz but not stopping there! Pretty much an essential purchase for anyone who loves ‘real music.’

Brian Bourgoin, WCNI Music Director
"Sultry and powerful vocals from West Coast singer/songwriter. Great melodies and a raw intensity."  



BEND BULLETIN July 2015

You might expect an album released by a music teacher to sound somewhat academic and staid. Eugene-based music teacher Melissa Ruth is neither of those things.
Her third self-released album, “Riding Mercury,” mixes soul-drenched vocals with high-energy roots rock for an eclectic sound that doesn’t quite fit either genre. One thing is for certain: Ruth and her band, The Likely Stories, know how to rock with grit and conviction.
The band’s tight playing is helped by the fact two members — guitarist Johnny Leal and drummer Jimmy Leal — are brothers. Ruth and Johnny Leal are also married, and have taught music together in rural, high-poverty areas for nearly 10 years.
Those experiences permeate the songs on “Riding Mercury,” from the wide-open sounds of the title cut to the swaggering, near-barroom-brawl soundtrack of “What I Got.”

 

INSURGENT COUNTRY November 2014


The unusual beauty of Melissa Ruth's previous album 'Ain't No Whiskey' grabbed me right away and didn't let go... So I was very excited to hear about this new release from the Eugene, Oregon based singer-songwriter! Rare talent Melissa Ruth gets inside her songs, her husky breathless vocals are even more confident than before, but with a lovely warm feeling and we believe every word she sings. 

ROOTSTIME October 2014

This woman and her band certainly deserve a place in the contemporary music scene as they make us look hopefully forward to their next new work.

THE ALTERNATE ROOT August 2014

Moving through after dark air in the French Quarter is like walking through thick sugar water. Most of the U.S. is humid in the summer, though New Orleans soaks through the t-shirt that humidity is wearing the minute it steps outside. The heat has slowed the rhythm like a dog in the sun for Melissa Ruth and the Likely Stories. Their story is second hand for a “Summer Night in New Orleans” but the band was paying attention ‘cause it sure feels real. 

BLABBER 'N' SMOKE July 2014

Riding Mercury closes the album with a more conventional structure that again harks back to fifties rock’n’roll with the band approaching a gospel rhythm as Ruth testifies with appropriate biblical allusions. A fine end to a fine album.

 

"A truly refreshing perspective." -Hank Arich

 

"I love everything about this album. 4.5 stars" -3rd Coast Music

  

"Whiskey is strong but has met a match with Melissa Ruth" -The Alternate Root

 

"Brilliant Album! 4.5 Stars." -American Roots UK

    

"Her music deserves to be heard" -Indie-Music

 

 

"A sensitive blend of prose and melody" -Johann Wagner

 

 

"This girl-next-door-turned-rockstar is ready to take your eardrums for a ride." -Eugene Weekly

 

Full Reviews

Roots Highway Italy

Diciassette microfoni posti davanti alla batteria, due diversi bassisti, il proprio marito alla sei corde elettrica, una bottiglia di whiskey e l'amata Guild Guitar del 1958 al suo fianco; tanto è servito a Melissa Ruth per "catturare" su nastro l'essenza primigenia dei brani andati infine a comporre Riding Mercury, sua terza prova in studio. Un lavoro che ricalca quanto di buono mostrato dal precedente Ain't No Whiskey, deciso scarto di lato stilistico rispetto al debutto Underwater And Other Places, ben più ancorato ad acustiche trame country folk. Per il suo nuovo parto artistico la Ruth opta, infatti, come già avvenuto nella precedente release per sonorità ancor più pregne d'elettricità, tra cupa tribolazione blues e notturna confessionalità jazz. Accompagnata anche in questo frangente dalle "Storie Piacevoli" ovvero un combo a conduzione "familiare" nel quale figurano il già citato marito, Johnny Leal, alla chitarra, e il di lui fratello Jimmy alla batteria, ai quali si aggiungono in questo frangente, alternandosi al basso, Rick DeVol e Scoop McGuire, la Ruth, oltre a dedicarsi a un, più che notevole, lavorio di songwriting, e a padroneggiare chitarra elettrica, banjo e tastiere, si fa qui carico anche del ruolo di produttrice, in partnership con Don Ross. Registrati in analogico, con tutti i musicisti chiusi in un'unica stanza, i brani qui acclusi mantengono, in tal modo, intatta la propria forza lirica, ulteriormente accentuata dalla tormentata voce della Ruth, intrisa della rabbia e della disperazione di un periodo della propria vita non facile, segnato da perdite familiari e da profondi dolori privati. Una vocalità, la sua, accostabile tanto a quella, meno roca, di una giovane Lucinda Williams, quanto ad una Ani DiFranco più introspettiva e meno barricadera, in grado di emergere, in tutta la propria, calda espressività, in brani dalla maggior dilatazione armonica, come nel pervasivo slow blues Summer Nights In New Orleans, nel respiro soul di Your Love, impreziosita dai limpidi fraseggi della chitarra di Leal, o nel crucciarsi amoroso di una stentorea, supplichevole Who's Your Lover?. Non mancano tuttavia episodi di più marcata dinamicità, come la sfuriata bluesy dell'opener What I Got, che non avrebbe sfigurato sull'ultimo, stupendo, disco della stessa Williams, o il puntato shuffle A Letter, fino alla ritmata sarabanda, con la comparsa del trombone di Talon Nansel, di High Brow Blues, dove più evidenti sono, a livello vocale, le assonanze con la DiFranco. Il rallentato, drammatico svolgersi della lunga title track, posta in chiusura, è invece l'occasione, per la Ruth, di profondersi in un'ultima, straziante prova vocale. Giunta al tanto ambito, quanto rischioso, terzo album, Melissa Ruth mostra un'invidiabile maturità stilistica ed interpretativa, tale da permetterle di fuoriuscire dal "popolato" gruppo delle "promesse" ed entrare a far parte del, all'incontrario, ristretto novero delle più solide, nuove realtà del songwriting americano.

Republished for Digging into the Music

Blabber n Smoke

Back at the beginning of 2013 Blabber’n’Smoke reviewed Melissa Ruth‘s Ain’t No Whiskey and found it very appealing. The album was almost two years old by then and only making it across the pond but her deep throated delivery of beer stained laments and frisky Tennessee Three like jaunts was mighty fine. Three years on, Riding Mercury is a more textured album with Ruth, husband Johnny Leal (on guitars) and brother in law Jimmy Leal (drums) augmented on bass by Rick De Vol and Scoop McGuire allowing the band to record live as opposed to Johnny Leal dubbing bass on the previous album. As a result the band is looser and they stretch out at times while they retain the basic smoky late night louche approach with Leal’s guitar more akin to jazz than blues while Ruth’s husky tones are perfectly suited for torch songs and breathless vocalese. The intimacy of Ain’t No Whiskey is sacrificed somewhat but there are several songs here that still capture the feel of that album and while lyrically Ruth ditches the drunken sad songs she replaces them with some excellent insights into broken hearts, broken families and broken women on what could be construed as a song cycle. 

Opening song, What I Got, sets the scene as a scuzzy blues scratch paints a picture of a bed ridden diseased woman looking for one last fling. Ruth’s banjo introduces the fine Lonely World that rips along gaily although again the lyrics paint a picture of an abandoned and lonely woman. Rick De Vol’s fretless bass billows throughout the aching blues of Summer Nights In New Orleans with Leal offering a gut wrenching slide guitar solo as Ruth sings as sultry as she can. Speaking of New Orleans the following High Brow Blues featuring Talon Nansel’s trombone sounds as if it was forged in the Crescent City as Ruth describes an empty socialite before the band launch into the jump jive of A Letter with some groovy guitar parts. Put Your Light On is a song that captures the description Ruth gave to her music when Ain’t No Whiskey came out. Doo Wop Twang is what she called it and here she carries the torch with a fifties’ influenced waltz while the guitar eventually slinks to the front to deliver a clipped and intense solo. Your Love is a country influenced ballad that recalls Lucinda Williams initially while the guitar solos in a lazy fashion reminiscent of Santo and Johnny. Ruth maintains this fifties feel on the soulful Tell Me and country pop Take My Chances but she closes the album with two powerful songs that recall the earlier album with the band scraping a desolate landscape as she visits territory normally inhabited by the likes of Mary Gauthier. Who’s Your Loverebbs and flows with fretless bass, tom tom percussion and charged, taut guitar as Ruth moans and pleads

Who’s your lover who’s your lover now?
Who’s your lover who’s your lover now?
You’ve found another you’ve found another now
Who’s your lover who’s your lover now?
White white linen white white linen now
White white linen white white linen now
Your head is spinnin your head is spinnin now
White white linen white white linen now 

Brown brown liquor brown brown liquor now
Brown brown liquor brown brown liquor now
Your heart is thicker your heart is thicker now
Brown brown liquor brown brown liquor now 

Black black water black black water now
Black black water black black water now
Your blood runs hot your blood rums hotter now
Black black water black black water now 

Red red fire red red fire now
Red red fire red red fire now
You hear the choirs the angel choirs now
Red red fire red red fire now.

Riding Mercury closes the album with a more conventional structure that again harks back to fifties rock’n’roll with the band approaching a gospel rhythm as Ruth testifies with appropriate biblical allusions. A fine end to a fine album.

 

American Roots UK

Qualitatively and ‘funkilly’ this excellent album reminds me of the great Steely Dan. Stylistically and musically they are nothing alike but still that feeling persists. Maybe much of that impression is due to the recording quality, perhaps an overlap in instrumentation and the ‘funkiness’ of their take on ‘roots music.’ There are elements of jazz, although this is not a jazz album, as well as elements of other roots sub genres but it is impossible to say what the dominant style is. Maybe that is the reason for the comparison. That indecipherable style that has a little of everything but is ultimately uniquely their own sound. The instrumentation is perfectly selected and played, whilst the recording quality and separation is excellent. Certainly there are many bands that description can be applied to but what they lack is the beautiful and expressive vocals of Melissa Ruth to lift the quality even further. She can do smoky jazziness and deep heartfelt blues, as well as a powerful country feeling, all as if that individual style is what she was born to. 

Whilst I loved and raved over the previous album ‘Ain’t no whiskey’ this recording is if anything even better. The instrumentation has a more fluid feel, perhaps because the band is finding its own style and Melissa’s vocals seem to have become more confident enabling her, rather than just singing the song, to virtually inhabit the lyrical content. She wrote all of the songs, as well as arranging and producing the album, sings all lead vocals and plays rhythm guitar, banjo and keyboards. Two constants on the three albums released so far are the Leal brothers, Johnny who plays lead, slide and rhythm guitars and Jimmy on drums, and that familiarity shows, with the two brothers both having an instinctive feel for each songs requirements. Also adding some excellent work to this album are Rick DeVol on electric and fretless bass, Scoop McGuire also on electric bass and Talon Nansel on trombone. The instrumentation is all tastefully arranged and has a lovely warm feel allowing Melissa’s vocal and the songs stories to dominate, yet at the same time providing a tremendous, often sparse colourwash of melodicism. Whilst the guitar sound is sweet toned  throughout this terrific album the bass and drums are what everything is built on, with all three blended together allowing Melissa the confidence to go where she likes with her fluidly melodic, poignant vocalizing on these songs of lifes ups and downs, all of which are imbued with a strong sense of believability.

The album opens with a little Steely Danish funkiness on What I Got, a tremendous song that has a strong jazzy bluesiness, with Mellisa’s vocals creating an almost confrontational attitude, added to which is some tremendous playing from the lovely melodic guitar and keyboards. Summer Night In New Orleans creates an incredibly deep swampy atmosphere starting with a slow moody bass and drum intro with some tremendous emotion drenched guitar sounds and an incredibly emotional vocal from Melissa on a song that gradually becomes more intense as we go through it. There is a tremendous jazzy bluesiness to High Brow Blues an excellent mid tempo song with sweet sounding guitar playing around the melody and propulsive bass and drums laying a heavy foundation, whilst the addition of trombone enhances the stylistic variations. On Put Your Light On we are treated to a sparky pleading vocal from Melissa with guitars, bass and drums as usual providing perfect support that includes an excellent guitar solo that fits perfectly with the song and brings a little variation to an excellent ballad. Who’s Your Lover has an excellent tuneful guitar sound that complements Melissa’s moodily atmospheric vocal on another terrific song that, as is often the case on this album, is of indeterminate genre, but has a powerful,  dark atmosphere. 

It’s difficult to know how to sum up an album of this quality. Everything on it is a highlight from the exceptional playing, arrangements and quality of writing to the expert  recording but for me what makes this such an outstanding album has to be Melissa’s lovely fluid, expressive vocals that are able to evoke just about any emotion or situation with total believability. This is a rare talent and one that seems to be growing with each album, as is that of her exceptional band. They call their music ‘Doo wop twang,’ which is probably as accurate as anyone can get, although I prefer to call it ‘great music,’ which is even more accurate!  A tremendous album that is not only a grower but also a stayer!  

3rd Coast Music Magazine

Listed among top FEMALE ARTISTS OF THE YEAR 2012

Listed among top ALBUMS OF THE YEAR 2012

4.5**** Most all the albums I've reviewed this month have one thing in common-- survivors of a mammoth listening session, they were made by people who have some f*ing clue how to construct an album. One, Melissa Ruth's, was a surprise, the others, not so much.

First thing you learn as a music writer, probably in any field but, in my experience, particularly with singer-songwriters, is that you have to kiss a lot of frogs before you find a prince. Or, in this case, a princess. Though she misfired with the overwrought and overwordy Underwater and Other Places (2008), second time out, Melissa Ruth, a Eugene, OR, music teacher is truly addictive. I love everything about this album, the vocals, the songs, the arrangements and the 'Doo Wop Twang' artistic vision. In between the two recordings, she fell in love with a 1958 Guild Freshman (one pickup, one tone knob), "It was a light switching on in my understanding of guitar." She also came to realize that "The songs were asking for wide open spaces," and with her sultry, compelling voice backed only by her husband Johnny Leal slide, rhythm and bass guitars and his brother Jimmy Leal drums, she gives different shades of dark poetry about transformations and transitions, woven with subtle traces of blues, country and jazz, a wonderfully contrasting light, airy setting.

From the first track, you want to hear the whole album, and then you want to hear it again. (4.5 out of 5 Stars)

Blabber N Smoke

Back at the beginning of 2013 Blabber’n’Smoke reviewed Melissa Ruth‘s Ain’t No Whiskey and found it very appealing. The album was almost two years old by then and only making it across the pond but her deep throated delivery of beer stained laments and frisky Tennessee Three like jaunts was mighty fine. Three years on, Riding Mercury is a more textured album with Ruth, husband Johnny Leal (on guitars) and brother in law Jimmy Leal (drums) augmented on bass by Rick De Vol and Scoop McGuire allowing the band to record live as opposed to Johnny Leal dubbing bass on the previous album. As a result the band is looser and they stretch out at times while they retain the basic smoky late night louche approach with Leal’s guitar more akin to jazz than blues while Ruth’s husky tones are perfectly suited for torch songs and breathless vocalese. The intimacy of Ain’t No Whiskey is sacrificed somewhat but there are several songs here that still capture the feel of that album and while lyrically Ruth ditches the drunken sad songs she replaces them with some excellent insights into broken hearts, broken families and broken women on what could be construed as a song cycle. 

Opening song, What I Got, sets the scene as a scuzzy blues scratch paints a picture of a bed ridden diseased woman looking for one last fling. Ruth’s banjo introduces the fine Lonely World that rips along gaily although again the lyrics paint a picture of an abandoned and lonely woman. Rick De Vol’s fretless bass billows throughout the aching blues of Summer Nights In New Orleans with Leal offering a gut wrenching slide guitar solo as Ruth sings as sultry as she can. Speaking of New Orleans the following High Brow Blues featuring Talon Nansel’s trombone sounds as if it was forged in the Crescent City as Ruth describes an empty socialite before the band launch into the jump jive of A Letter with some groovy guitar parts. Put Your Light On is a song that captures the description Ruth gave to her music when Ain’t No Whiskey came out. Doo Wop Twang is what she called it and here she carries the torch with a fifties’ influenced waltz while the guitar eventually slinks to the front to deliver a clipped and intense solo. Your Love is a country influenced ballad that recalls Lucinda Williams initially while the guitar solos in a lazy fashion reminiscent of Santo and Johnny. Ruth maintains this fifties feel on the soulful Tell Me and country pop Take My Chances but she closes the album with two powerful songs that recall the earlier album with the band scraping a desolate landscape as she visits territory normally inhabited by the likes of Mary Gauthier. Who’s Your Loverebbs and flows with fretless bass, tom tom percussion and charged, taut guitar as Ruth moans and pleads

Who’s your lover who’s your lover now?
Who’s your lover who’s your lover now?
You’ve found another you’ve found another now
Who’s your lover who’s your lover now?
White white linen white white linen now
White white linen white white linen now
Your head is spinnin your head is spinnin now
White white linen white white linen now 

Brown brown liquor brown brown liquor now
Brown brown liquor brown brown liquor now
Your heart is thicker your heart is thicker now
Brown brown liquor brown brown liquor now 

Black black water black black water now
Black black water black black water now
Your blood runs hot your blood rums hotter now
Black black water black black water now 

Red red fire red red fire now
Red red fire red red fire now
You hear the choirs the angel choirs now
Red red fire red red fire now.

Riding Mercury closes the album with a more conventional structure that again harks back to fifties rock’n’roll with the band approaching a gospel rhythm as Ruth testifies with appropriate biblical allusions. A fine end to a fine album.

American Roots UK

Qualitatively and ‘funkilly’ this excellent album reminds me of the great Steely Dan. Stylistically and musically they are nothing alike but still that feeling persists. Maybe much of that impression is due to the recording quality, perhaps an overlap in instrumentation and the ‘funkiness’ of their take on ‘roots music.’ There are elements of jazz, although this is not a jazz album, as well as elements of other roots sub genres but it is impossible to say what the dominant style is. Maybe that is the reason for the comparison. That indecipherable style that has a little of everything but is ultimately uniquely their own sound. The instrumentation is perfectly selected and played, whilst the recording quality and separation is excellent. Certainly there are many bands that description can be applied to but what they lack is the beautiful and expressive vocals of Melissa Ruth to lift the quality even further. She can do smoky jazziness and deep heartfelt blues, as well as a powerful country feeling, all as if that individual style is what she was born to. 

Whilst I loved and raved over the previous album ‘Ain’t no whiskey’ this recording is if anything even better. The instrumentation has a more fluid feel, perhaps because the band is finding its own style and Melissa’s vocals seem to have become more confident enabling her, rather than just singing the song, to virtually inhabit the lyrical content. She wrote all of the songs, as well as arranging and producing the album, sings all lead vocals and plays rhythm guitar, banjo and keyboards. Two constants on the three albums released so far are the Leal brothers, Johnny who plays lead, slide and rhythm guitars and Jimmy on drums, and that familiarity shows, with the two brothers both having an instinctive feel for each songs requirements. Also adding some excellent work to this album are Rick DeVol on electric and fretless bass, Scoop McGuire also on electric bass and Talon Nansel on trombone. The instrumentation is all tastefully arranged and has a lovely warm feel allowing Melissa’s vocal and the songs stories to dominate, yet at the same time providing a tremendous, often sparse colourwash of melodicism. Whilst the guitar sound is sweet toned  throughout this terrific album the bass and drums are what everything is built on, with all three blended together allowing Melissa the confidence to go where she likes with her fluidly melodic, poignant vocalizing on these songs of lifes ups and downs, all of which are imbued with a strong sense of believability.

The album opens with a little Steely Danish funkiness on What I Got, a tremendous song that has a strong jazzy bluesiness, with Mellisa’s vocals creating an almost confrontational attitude, added to which is some tremendous playing from the lovely melodic guitar and keyboards. Summer Night In New Orleans creates an incredibly deep swampy atmosphere starting with a slow moody bass and drum intro with some tremendous emotion drenched guitar sounds and an incredibly emotional vocal from Melissa on a song that gradually becomes more intense as we go through it. There is a tremendous jazzy bluesiness to High Brow Blues an excellent mid tempo song with sweet sounding guitar playing around the melody and propulsive bass and drums laying a heavy foundation, whilst the addition of trombone enhances the stylistic variations. On Put Your Light On we are treated to a sparky pleading vocal from Melissa with guitars, bass and drums as usual providing perfect support that includes an excellent guitar solo that fits perfectly with the song and brings a little variation to an excellent ballad. Who’s Your Lover has an excellent tuneful guitar sound that complements Melissa’s moodily atmospheric vocal on another terrific song that, as is often the case on this album, is of indeterminate genre, but has a powerful,  dark atmosphere. 

It’s difficult to know how to sum up an album of this quality. Everything on it is a highlight from the exceptional playing, arrangements and quality of writing to the expert  recording but for me what makes this such an outstanding album has to be Melissa’s lovely fluid, expressive vocals that are able to evoke just about any emotion or situation with total believability. This is a rare talent and one that seems to be growing with each album, as is that of her exceptional band. They call their music ‘Doo wop twang,’ which is probably as accurate as anyone can get, although I prefer to call it ‘great music,’ which is even more accurate!  A tremendous album that is not only a grower but also a stayer!   

Blabber 'N' Smoke

We were intrigued when a few months back an email popped in from Melissa Ruth inviting us to listen to her brand of what she called doo-wop twang. Intrigued enough to enquire more and eventually track down a copy of her album Ain't No Whiskey and glad we are of that.

Ain't No Whiskey sees Canadian Ruth, now living in Eugene, Oregon, setting up stall with her husband Johnny Leal and brother in law, Jimmy Leal in tow (on lead, slide and bass guitar and drums respectively) as she plays a fine set of songs that were kick-started by her purchase of a 1958 Guild Freshman guitar and some time spent delving through old jazz and blues albums. The trio play with a great sense of intimacy and a simplicity that affords Ruth's writing and her sultry voice plenty of space to impress. Johnny Leal's spare playing complements Ruth's choppy rhythm guitar whether they are laying down some late night vibes or channelling the Tennessee Three (on Dusty Boxcar) and the end result is somewhat akin to early Cowboy Junkies colliding with Mary Gauthier.

While she sings superbly Ruth also writes a mean song with the title piece standing out as a blues lament from a woman who can't find solace in the bottle. This sad state of affairs continues in No One Said Nothin Bout Dancin, a lazy drink laced waltz that woozily meanders along with a similar feeling to that old chestnut Tennessee Waltz. Willing To Fall completes a triumvirate of drink fuelled misery and lost love with Ruth's voice melting while Leal's guitar waxes lyrically. It's not all downbeat however as Dusty Boxcar jaunts along in an autobiographical vein while Write Me A Love Song breezes along at a pell mell rate. However they are at their best when investigating the downbeat side of life and Cinco De Mayo is a fine impressionistic account of a young man's longing for a Mexican girl who may or might not be unattainable. Wonderful stuff although we remain somewhat nonplussed by the lack of doo-wop.

American Roots UK

Listed among top ALBUMS OF THE YEAR 2012

4.5**** In all my decades as a music fan it never ceases to amaze me when I stumble across another huge talent who is virtually unknown (or certainly is to me!) and I just wonder why, with all that talent, they are not household names! My musical preferences have always gone in the direction of people who don't kow tow to the preconceived ideas of the big commercial companies, instead staying true to themselves and their own fully formed vision of the music they feel more comfortable with and have some control over. These indeterminate boxes are all ticked by this highly talented singer songwriter, along with the other two members of her band who contribute so much to her highly individual sound. 

This is a gorgeous album of pretty much unique, Doo Wop Twang. That is Melissa's own name for this generic field and as this trio are pretty much the only members, will have to suffice in the absence of anything more appropriate! She is reminiscent in various ways of artists such as Rickie Lee Jones, Lucinda Williams and even a little of Chrissie Hynde. Fairly obviously these are all very loose comparisons but my guess is that if you like any of them but think they sometimes overdo the instrumentation, you will love Melissa! The recording contains sparse beautifully chiming and twanging guitars, lovely character laden, expressive feminine vocals and some tremendously well written songs. Melissa really is a huge talent who will hopefully soon be known to many more, or certainly should be! 

The band consists of Melissa on rhythm guitar and vocals, Johnny Leal plays some highly skilled lead, slide and rhythm guitar as well as bass whilst the excellent Jimmy Leal is on drums. Everything has a lovely open sound on which nothing gets in the way of Melissa's vocals but at the same time the instruments have a lovely separation and clarity which allows them to shine and get the best out of the gorgeous melodies, a testament to Melissa's superb production techniques. You need a lot of confidence in your ability to portray your songs when instrumentation is this sparse and it is that sparseness that allows the warm, sensual emotion and maturity of Melissa's vocals and the quality of her poetically evocative lyrics to shine through and guide everything on this excellent album. The tempo of the album, whilst slow and moody, always has a quite gripping feel to it with the ability to create an evocation of the various emotions and actions depicted within these nine tremendous songs. 

Drive In The Rain, the very first song on the album sets the scene for what is to follow with it's lovely twangy chiming guitar alongside steel guitar plus subtle supportive percussion, on a tale of a woman who has had enough of life as a coal miners lover and is heading out west. It is a powerful song, as is the guitar playing, and you actually get a sense of traveling through wide open arid spaces to get to where she wants to go. Write Me A Love Song has an almost chirpy upbeat feel on an evocative tale of a "Rocky Mountain girl" and a "Sandy Bottom boy" whose lives go in different directions, a song that continues the lovely chiming guitar sound, supported by a steady thrumming bass and brushed snare and including a lovely melodic guitar solo. Ain't Found It Yet, musically has a nice mellow sound, but as with her other songs the lyrics are anything but. The melodic guitar, bass and soft drums slowly propel a really good song about someone in a perpetual state of confusion, who no matter how hard she searches just can't find what she is looking for! Melissa's expressive vocals seem to emanate a feeling of frustration that the character in the song obviously feels during a long and unremitting search that many of us have been through at some stage of our lives. There is a gorgeous moody guitar sound on Willing To Fall, a tale of someone who abandons herself to her feelings despite knowing she shouldn't and I'm guessing that the mid tempo but sparse, Dusty Boxcar a chirpy upbeat story could well be a biographical snippet!. 

It's always difficult to define "originality" in a recording but this has more than most and certainly contains an incredibly well balanced individuality that is less prevalent in modern music than it once was. The lyrics are beautifully constructed, the instrumentation is open and skillfully played, with Jimmy Leal's subtle, tasteful drumming underpinning everything and Johnny's incredible mastery of the guitar adding colour and atmosphere at just the right moments, whilst Melissa's vocals are chock full of character and femininity. Her production of this tremendous album, with it's clarity and sparseness, gives a recording that easily carries itself, a further lift. 

Brilliant album!

Alternate Root

Featured Artist of the Week 05.25.12 

It's confession time. Melissa Ruth sits behind the wheel in Ain't No Whiskey, driving the songs with confidence. She handles the weather with the same ability that she navigates the roads on song number one, Drive in the Rain, with one lone electric guitar as a traveling companion in the songs intro. Melissa attacks the tales on Ain't No Whiskey with a heart that is bared and a soul on full display. Her voice sounds like has spent the morning soaking it in the whiskey that she often references. Whiskey is strong but has met a match with Melissa Ruth; nothing is slurred in and no words are missing. The delivery traces a path back to the slow process of distilling the amber liquid. There is no hurry to give over her story, the telling comes as it should and that slight hesitation in Melissa's reading adds to the cause by letting the words hang.

Life is simple and polite conversation needs only two who see the glass half full as the pair in Dusty Boxcar, goals are good when drunken' and getting down are in sight in No One Said Nothin' Bout Dancin, a trip hammer heartbeat stutters under stories about Sandy Bottom boys and Rocky Mountain girl asking them to Write Me A Love Song and fat lonesome guitar notes add low end sparkle to the celebration in Cinco de Mayo.

Melissa Ruth & The Likely Stories let the reality of life slide down over their songs like honey seeping from a broken jar in Ain't No Whiskey.

Nelson Star

Her strong voice and riveting lyrics were the signature of her sophomore album.

Un Nom de Guerre

There's an edge to Melissa Ruth's latest LP Aint No Whiskey that's whetted itself on the grindstone of struggle, desire, and a wandering longing for something just below the horizon. It lulls you into smoky cafes, dance floors, and enough bar-rooms to keep you buzzed until the morning. Following up with their 2008 album Underwater and Other Places, Melissa's second release on her own label, Both Ears Records, sinks into an infusion of jazz and blues influences which has been steeped in her own personal flavour of country-folk jive. Accompanying the singer/songwriter's uncanny capacity to evoke the subtleties of a genre she describes as "doo-wop twang", a place where blues blends like watercolours into jazz and country, is her husband Johnny Leal laying down a precision of guitar riffs. It's elegant, but it's not antiseptic; there's an impression of ease in his playing and a complete familiarity with the instrument, especially in songs like Willing to Fall and Drive In The Rain. 

The couple epitomize a marriage of music. Underlying the wide range of content that the songs explore lies an open-ended question, a searching for something, whether it's hope, meaning, or acceptance; the characters she draws out embellish a broad and, at times, nihilistic objectivity. But if there is sadness, it's not despair. The question that insinuates itself into her music doesn't always have an answer, and that's the way it ought to be. The kind of solemnity that works its way into the expression of a woman staring out a window at the rain, or driving south-side in a chase for something she knows not what. It's an acquiescence I can get behind, if only because it represents a less jaded "that's the way things are"mentality. It's solid, grounded. Songs like Dusty Boxcar pick up the pace and give a free-wheeling intimacy to the album, but also inject a very personal touch as well. 

Maybe that's what I'm trying to get at: At face value Ain't No Whiskey has the flair and mellow contradictions that make any country album the easy-listening road-mix that it is, but what lies a finger's breadth below and breaks the surface over and over is something more authentic. The two of them have kept the album "in the family", so to speak, with Johnny's brother Jimmy Leal picking up the percussion and Melissa's younger sister Leah and her husband Talon supplying some background vocals, and as for the couple, you can almost feel them winking and playing off each other in a kind of unspoken language. At the same time, they have a decidedly laissez-faire approach to their songs. Like a good wine, they don't force the music in a direction it doesn't want to go, they let it breathe. The single Cinco De Mayo opens up history as if it had a zipper and spreads it like a page across Melissa's savory vocals, while her 1958 Guild Freshman rockets us back to an era reminiscent of Coltrane and Bob Dylan. 

It's an album you might find written on a restaurant napkin with the kind of characters that live out of the back of their cars and frequent the soporific dives on lonesome highways. It follows the trajectory of whiskey in the immoral hours before dawn, swings out like a dodged left hook, loses its footing, and arrives here, halfway between.

Hank Alrich

I was interested in working with Melissa Ruth because I immediately found her songs fascinating. Lots of artists are putting forth 'original' material, but little of it is anywhere near this original. She has a very personal take on all of it - lyrics, melodies, accompaniment - that brings forth a truly refreshing perspective, one completely outside the 'cookie cutter' approach to which so many young artists fall prey.

WYCE Music Journal

Melissa Ruth is a classically trained musician with real-world, righteous babe-like sensibilities and songwriting prowess- despite her surroundings. (She and bandmate/hubby, Johnny Leal are both public school music teachers). 

Her songwriting and performing from the outset (on this, her second studio album) are eerily reminiscent of a "westernized"Ani DiFranco, with a nihilistic perspective (Drive In The Rain). The second song on this playlist sets the tone with a a he-done-me-wrong-so-I'm-drinkin'-myself-to-death-song with a "doo-wop twangy" sense of humor (Ain't No Whiskey). The third cut (Write Me A Love Song) kicks up the tempo a notch, while retaining that same sense of humor- the pace being the humorous point here (a bluegrass rhythm). I just had to listen on, finding that every song on this release is as good as the previous one. 

As I mentioned in a previous review, it is refreshing to listen to a release where the artist actually took time to put out honest, well-written and heartfelt music. This whole effort is minimalist from a singing and instrumental perspective; however, it makes the output no less melodious nor less meaningful; to the contrary, this artist (and company) can expect a very bright future ahead. And remember, you heard it here first.

The Register-Guard

You can hear influences from rockabilly to honky-tonk, but as much as Ruth has developed her vocal approach and songwriting, the band has created a cohesive sound that borrows from everywhere but isn't a knock off....
Just like a college student exploring new ideas, Ruth tried on many musical styles before finding the right fit. Identity is an ever-shifting thing, but for Ruth, once she found the effectiveness in letting her music breathe, she started to find something more authentically her. And the bluesy sound with that dash of twang seems a perfect match for her family band.

WCNI, CT

Sultry and powerful vocals from West Coast singer/songwriter. Great melodies and a raw intensity. It is Americana, but also has elements of the blues, roots and late night driving ballads. Keep an ear out for the soulful electric guitar solos on a few songs that offer a perfect compliment to Melissa's vocals. PLAY!

KZGM FM Cabool, MO


Ain't No Whiskey is an album where Ruth takes creative chances where she must but delivers solid performances all the way, often tinged with a bluesy lustre.

Roots Highway (Italy)

Canadese d'origine, Melissa Ruth ha dovuto abbandonare, come d'altronde molte altre sue "colleghe", la terra natia per poter avviare la propria carriera musicale. Trasferitasi infatti nell'assolata California, per iscriversi alla facoltà di musica, si dedica al contempo alla stesura di brani autografi, i quali andranno in seguito a comporre il suo album d'esordio. Una volta laureatasi, si stabilisce ad Eugene, Oregon, dove, oltre ad iniziare la professione d'insegnante, in ambito ovviamente musicale, pone le basi di un parallelo percorso artistico, la cui prima tappa è la pubblicazione di Underwater and Other Places. Un debutto, quest'ultimo, caratterizzato da scarne composizioni di ascendenza folk, o per meglio dire "home-grown folk sass", come definito dalla stessa Ruth. Una formula quest'ultima che sembra tuttavia sopravvivere solo in parte tra i solchi del nuovo Ain't no Whiskey, nel quale, complice l'acquisto di una chitarra elettrica, una Guild Freshman del 1958 per la precisione, lo spettro sonoro della songwriter canadese pare allargarsi a dolenti ed elettriche sonorità bluesy, così come a soffuse melodie jazz. La schiettezza acustica del debutto viene in parte accantonata, in favore di una maggiore introspezione, percepibile tanto a livello sonoro quanto lirico. Fondamentali, nell'attuazione di questo cambio di sonorità, sono senza dubbio gli apporti strumentali di Johnny Neal, marito della stessa Ruth, alla chitarra e al basso, e del fratello di quest'ultimo, Jimmy, che percuote con calibrata maestria i propri tamburi. Quello che il trio ottiene è un amalgama elettro-acustico, nel quale trovano spazio agresti echi country, la sofferenza insita nel blues, ed il fascino notturno del jazz, in quello che la nostra sintetizza con la suggestiva definizione di "doop-woop twang". E proprio una chitarra twangy tesse la melodia nell'opener Drive in the Rain, umbratile blues dalle tinte country. Impregnata di sentori bluesy è anche la title track, avvolgente slow che si dipana lento intorno a una sofferta interpretazione vocale della Ruth, che pare trovarsi a proprio agio negli inediti panni della blueswoman. Assistiamo invece ad un ritorno verso gli originari territori folk nella pulsante Write Me a Love Song, con un preciso lavoro di Jimmy Neal alle spazzole, così come nell'armonioso valzer No one Said Nothin 'bout Dancin'. Se Cinco de Mayo è una riuscita ballata d'impronta folk, la conclusiva Wake me in the Morning è un nuovo malinconico tuffo nel tormentato animo della songwriter, enfatizzato dai ricami della sei corde di Neal. Un album di una bellezza insinuante Ain't no Whiskey, ad opera di un'artista che pare aver trovato la dimensione sonora ad essa più congeniale.

Rootstime (Belgium)

A few years ago did the American singer and songwriter Melissa Ruth from Eugene , Oregon with her husband and guitarist Johnny Leal on a successor to its acoustic album Underwater And Other Places she had published in 2008. During that period, she bumped into a local music store in a beautiful Guild Freshman electric guitar from 1958. They purchased the instrument instantly and was by inspired to playing jazz and blues songs they have in their own old record collection had to sit . Melissa Ruth then began to compose himself and then she took such numbers in the recording studio for the CD which is now under the title Ain't No Whiskey appeared on the marketplace. Love , happiness , peace , desire and emotions are the subjects of the nine songs on this record . Together with her husband on guitar and his brother Jimmy on drums (The Likely together Stories) , they played the songs in an intimate setting in the studio and subdued atmosphere is clearly heard in the songs back. The opening song â € œDrive In The Raina € ? sounds naked and honest , while the wonderful title track â € œAinâ € ™ t No Whiskeyâ € ? tells about the feelings you so you can not set aside or forgotten as it succeeds in getting drunk on some good glass of whiskey . There's something in the voice of Melissa Ruth that reminds us of the raw, gravelly voice of Lucinda Williams and Chrissie Hynde (The Pretenders) . This is especially the case in the sober ballads of waltzing No One Said Nothin Bout Dancin where the twang sound of her Guild guitar dominates and emotional Willing To Fall. Musically ends listener into a dream world by gently wegkabbelende songs like Cinco De Mayo (the first single from this CD) and Ain't Found It Yet or the song tempo produced Dusty Boxcar. But as so often is also the most beautiful preserved for the last time on this album . The only song placed under the supervision of an acoustic guitar Wake Me In The Morning ( see video ) has all the makings of a real classic song to be and become if treated by other great voices as Emmylou Harris or Lucinda Williams in the future. Melissa Ruth & The Likely Stories is a pleasant discovery for us and her album Ain't No Whiskey make us eagerly look forward to future work, for which we hope that we will not have to wait too long

Een paar jaar geleden werkte de Amerikaanse zangeres en songschrijfster Melissa Ruth uit Eugene, Oregon samen met haar echtgenoot en gitarist Johnny Leal aan een opvolger voor haar akoestische plaat “Underwater And Other Places” die ze in 2008 had uitgebracht. In die periode stootte ze in een lokale muziekwinkel op een prachtige ‘Guild Freshman’ elektrische gitaar uit 1958. Ze kocht het instrument meteen en werd er door geïnspireerd tot het spelen van jazz- en bluesnummers die ze in hun eigen oude platencollectie hadden zitten. Melissa Ruth begon daarop zelf dergelijke nummers te componeren en nadien nam ze die in de opnamestudio op voor de cd die nu onder de titel “Ain’t No Whiskey” op de platenmarkt is verschenen. De liefde, het geluk, de vrede, het verlangen en de emoties vormen de onderwerpen van de negen songs op deze plaat. Samen met haar man op gitaar en diens broer Jimmy op drums (samen ‘The Likely Stories’) speelden ze de songs in een intieme setting in de studio en die ingetogen sfeer is duidelijk terug te horen in de nummers. Het openingslied “Drive In The Rain” klinkt naakt en eerlijk, terwijl de wondermooie titeltrack “Ain’t No Whiskey” verhaalt over de gevoelens die je niet zo maar opzij kunt zetten of vergeten zoals dat lukt bij het dronken geraken via een aantal glazen goede whisky. Er zit iets in het stemgeluid van Melissa Ruth dat ons doet denken aan de rauwe, schuurpapieren stem van Lucinda Williams of van Chrissie Hynde (‘The Pretenders’). Dit is voornamelijk het geval in de sobere ballads van het walsende “No One Said Nothin’ ‘Bout Dancin’” waarin het twangende geluid van haar ‘Guild’-gitaar domineert en in het emotionele “Willing To Fall”. Muzikaal belandt je als luisteraar in een droomwereld bij zachtjes wegkabbelende liedjes als “Cinco De Mayo” (de eerste single uit deze cd) en “Ain’t Found It Yet” of in het uptempo gebrachte nummer “Dusty Boxcar”. Maar zoals zo vaak wordt ook op dit album het allermooiste voor het laatst bewaard. Het uitsluitend onder begeleiding van een akoestische gitaar gebrachte liedje “Wake Me In The Morning” (zie video) heeft alles in zich om een echte songklassieker te worden en in de toekomst door andere grote stemmen als Emmylou Harris of Lucinda Williams gecoverd te worden. ‘Melissa Ruth & the Likely Stories’ is voor ons een aangename ontdekking en ze doet ons met haar album “Ain’t No Whiskey” verlangend uitkijken naar haar verdere toekomstige werk, waarvan we hopen dat we er niet al te lang op zullen moeten wachten.

Eugene Weekly

With her intimate feel and hometown attitude, Melissa Ruth has enchanted listeners with her music driven lyrics and beautifully sultry voice. This girl-next-door-turned-rock-star is ready to take your eardrums for a ride.

Indie-Music.com

When you think of the folk singers of the 60s and 70s, it's amazing to recall how casually their natural, comfortable songs so easily told the tales of so many lives. Tom Rush's "Driving Wheel," Joan Baez's "Diamonds & Rust," and Sandy Denny's "It Suits Me Well," come immediately to mind as deceptively simple songs that are musically brilliant. Melissa Ruth's latest album Underwater & Other Places, shows that this classically trained musician has the skills and creativity to join the ranks of superb folk artists.

Ruth never overplays her musical hand. The stories she tells in her songs are pure and natural as is her music and vocals. Ruth knows a good story doesn't need a lot of slick production and elaborate instrumentation to shine; the song can stand on its own merits. "Consider "Fate or Circumstance." In telling stories of the downtrodden and corporate chains that bind many, Ruth could easily have turned this into another ho-hum liberal cry. The problem with some of those tunes of course is that they seem less about concern over a wrong and more about an artist's "message" sometimes seeming almost like parodies. Ruth never takes that road. Instead her complex stories are told through simple guitar work and stark vocals that offer commentary- powerful to be sure- but not righteous indignation. That's not to say that Ruth's music is simplistic. Far from it. "Honey From the Hive" which hints of blues and a touch of R&B, and "Sooner Break Than Bend," which showcases intricate guitar work and subtle percussion, highlight Ruth's considerable range and creativity.

Let's hope Ruth, who can clearly fill the void left by so many great folkies, breaks out of the pack. Her music deserves to be heard. Reviews: Melissa Ruth

The Eugene Weekly

Ruth's sensitive guitar playing shines through in each song, and though her tunes are lyrically driven stories, they're not history lessons like those of Laura Veirs. Neither are they as languorous as those of Devon Sproule, and certainly not as fragile as the Be Good Tanyas, but fans of any of these women would find good company in Melissa Ruth. Local Americana Goodness

The Register-Guard

While she's no Joan Baez vocally, Ruth's voice is pretty. She has a good range and shows tremendous potential. Her college teacher already might need to eat her words about whether Ruth has “it” if she ever hears her former student's CD or sees her play live. Ruth's "it" is love, compassion, humor, good guitar skills, a pretty voice, a capable band and a desire equal to her audience's to connect with people.

The Lumberjack

Melissa Ruth brings easy-to-feel lyrics and an earthy melody to listeners.... Her hometown-folk picks at the memories of warm autumn nights and good company.

Johann Wagner

A sensitive blend of prose and melody; her music warms you with magical imagery and well crafted songwriting.

Issa Stemler

Holy shit....Melissa and Johnny have an amazing trio goin on!! They shred some guits for real and she is screaming spot on pitch and warble fucking free. I was blown away by the overdrive seriously. Girlfriend is a rock star and there is no flower folk wanking. You know I dont front the props! come see Melissa, and some musicians who are the real thing. Warble free, no man hating/ prude bitch/ Tori Jewel wining. Promise.