Somewhere along the west coast, on a small ranch in Southwest Oregon, indie-Americana artist Melissa Ruth has found a home for her unique “doo-wop twang.”
Born and raised in the rural mountains of southern British Columbia, Ruth was brought up on borscht and Bob Dylan. Her extended community of Russian immigrants nourished Ruth with stories of survival, both on the prairies and in the provincial school that her fathers and aunties attended when they were young.
Now an educator herself, Ruth teaches music for a local school district and advocates for music education in small schools, particularly in rural communities like her own. Her latest single, “Yoncalla Moon” – which officially dropped today March 14th – teases the release of her upcoming album, Bones, an exploration of how her childhood shaped the woman she is today.
About ten years into her time at a tiny timber town school district, Ruth took up playing guitar for The Slow Ponies, an all-women Western band based out of Yoncalla. The women, all in their 70s, were primarily descendents of the pioneer Charles Applegate, or the headman of the Yoncalla Kalapuya people, Camafeema.
“I spent a lot of time in Yoncalla wondering why people came west and why they never left,” says Ruth. “This song aims to answer those questions for me.” Between funky guitar licks, and over bluesy keys, Ruth cries, “Kick off your boots / We stay the night,” identifying the simple pleasure of finding a home in somewhere new.
If you were wondering what exactly Ruth means by “doo-wop twang”, she’s described it as “a lot of overlapping genres, obviously. But blues people think it’s too rock, rock people think it’s too country, and country people think it’s too blues. Whatever you hear in it, it’s in there.” In holding space for the elemental quirks of each genre, Ruth curates the perfect symphony to carry her raspy vocals.
Bones, Ruth’s fourth self-produced album, is slated for release March 24th.
When she’s not producing, performing, or studying for her master’s degree in music education, you can find Ruth spending time with her husband, various critters, and border collie, Lu.