One definition of a record is "a piece of evidence about the past." Ideally, we also think of records—in the musical sense—as being timeless, as being vehicles that speak across the years. The Mike + Ruthy Band's Bright as You Can certainly fits the first bill, but it feels like it will fit the second, too, and that's something worth reaching for. What's more, Bright as You Can feels like an account of its place as well. It is distinctly a Hudson Valley record, with all that thought implies—a rooted sense of groove, grace and family; a loose, tight swing; and a sound as earth-toned as its cover art. The title of track seven, "The Ghost of Richard Manuel," tells you all you need to know.
Here and there Ruthy Ungar channels Syd Straw, and there's little better than that, is there? "Rock On Little Jane," with its Stax-like horn chart, for example, is like sugar-shaped R&B; "Golden Eye" replaces brass with banjo, but still struts soulfully; and the title track, driven by Ungar's fiddle, is a children's song in wolf's clothing. Mike Merenda, for his part, gets more than a little Rodney Crowell going on "Word on the Street," and also shines on "Chasin' Gold" and the sprawling "What Are We Waiting For." Great stuff here, a record you'll return to when your beard's longer—and grayer. Mikeandruthy.com.