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The Mike + Ruthy Band, Bright As You Can, feature CD, 7/10


Mike + Ruthy – “one of acoustic America’s most revered musical duos” (Folk Alley) – have re-emerged with an ace ensemble and their stunning new album Bright As You Can.  Surrounded by friends and family, Mike Merenda and Ruthy Ungar are forging their own take on Americana, not just musically, but in their non-traditional approach to life and parenthood which has informed the songwriting and emotional range of Bright As You Can. The album is in many ways a heartfelt musical expression of Merenda and Ungar’s life and adventures together. Pulling from Motown, bluegrass, rock, folk and more, the album features impeccably crafted songs, gorgeous harmonies and inspired performances. The Mike + Ruthy Band move comfortably from rollicking rock to spare acoustic balladry to classic R&B-influenced rave ups.

A manifesto of sorts for the album, the title track leads things off with lessons gleaned from lovers, children, travel and different generations, while an insistent beat and screeching fiddle propel the song forward. It’s a summation and celebration about all that is worth appreciating as we move through life. “Rock On Little Jane” features vintage horns and a powerful vocal turn from Ungar, with words of wisdom from Merenda to their young daughter Opal. Written by Ungar and Merenda’s close friend (and current contender on “The Voice) Joshua Davis, “The Ghost Of Richard Manuel” pays tribute to Manuel and his cohorts in the Band, a group still very much revered in Ungar and Merenda’s hometown of Woodstock, NY. “Simple & Sober” is a stark, gorgeous ballad inspired both by pregnancy and a friend celebrating one year of being clean. “Legends Only Appear In Black & White” is a dirty, mid-tempo rocker that blends a rough edge with mountain harmonies.

KSUT will feature 'Bright As You Can' Friday, July 10 at 12 noon.