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Things that do not go together: An upright bass and a dance beat. Crafting parties and honky tonks. New York and hillbillies. Instagram and romance. Tones harkening back to Hank Senior and a sound fresh enough to turn country music on its ear. Somehow, Curb Records newcomer Ruthie Collins doesn’t just bring those polar opposites a little closer, she connects them in a way that makes perfect sense. The effect is stunning – nowhere more so than on her debut single “Ramblin’ Man.”
When sounds reminiscent of Hank Williams’ mournful call are joined by Collins’ ethereal vocals over a completely unexpected backbeat, traditionalists instantly know the track is no mere cover of the 1953 chart-topper. Listeners unfamiliar with Williams – or even his son – simply realize that someone has taken country music to a place they never imagined it could go. As both groups get to know Ruthie and her introductory EP Vintage, the convergence of these seemingly disparate realities is convincing them that something truly unique is happening.
“I am a really old-fashioned person living in 2014,” Collins says. “I drive a 1984 Jeep Wagoneer with wood paneling, but there’s a backup camera and an iPod dock. I am obsessed with rustic farmhouse decor. I have a garden. All these things are very country, we just don’t always think about young women in that way. But they’re out there and they’re having crafting parties with their girlfriends. Whether it’s something that’s timeless or something brand new that aspires to that, I am drawn to things that speak of permanence. And that’s how I feel about my music – the upright bass and bluegrass instrumentation modernized and brought into the present day.”
Bringing those sensibilities together, she and producer Curt Gibbs decided to use the sound of “Ramblin’ Man.” “When I heard Hank Senior sing ‘I love you, baby,’ it just sounded like this guy talking to his girlfriend,” Ruthie says. She intended to write lyrics, but made a spot decision. “I Googled the lyrics and went in to sing a scratch vocal, changing it a bit to be from a female perspective. I don’t know where that melody came from, but I sang it off-the-cuff and we haven’t changed it a bit. The first time I did it, it was all there.”
“Ramblin’ Man” changed how she thought about the music she was still writing and had already recorded. Early reaction to songs including “Get Drunk And Cry” and the EP’s title track are confirming what she has finally come to believe. “So, I can just be myself?” she asks rhetorically. “I don’t have to try to be a lot cooler than I am? I can actually talk about Pinterest and gardening and crafting? It’s okay that I don’t sound like Martina? I’m just laying it out there. It’s different and kinda scary, but a leap of faith.” In the end, making music and being exactly who she is are two things that go together perfectly for Ruthie Collins.