Mike and Ruthy are on their third album now, and they are still looking for their sound. On their debut, The Honeymoon Agenda, they alternated between folk and rock, and the resulting album had a nice variety of sounds. Then, on Waltz of the Chickadee, they emphasized the folk side of things, and there is a lot of beautiful music to be found there. Now, on Million to One, they explore their rock side. I can hear various influences, from Motown to Bob Dylan, with several stops in between. What comes through most clearly as Mike and Ruthy is the excitement they feel about this music, and how well they have learned to compliment each other musically. As for the lyrics, the two of them have a viewpoint that is all their own.
The music here is mostly acoustic rock. There is the typical foundation of drums, bass, and guitar. To that, add piano or organ, pedal steel, and some electric guitar. Then, on top, Ruthy Ungar can add fiddle, or Mike Merenda might add banjo. Both have breathy voices, and they blend beautifully. And at times, both can add a bit of muscle to their voice to up the intensity. So Covered and Be the Boss each has a gospel quality, while Summer Sun has a smooth, almost New Age feel to it. Goodbye is the Motown type number, but Mike and Ruthy are not soul shouters by any means, so the song is a subtle performance. At first listen, it is possible to almost miss the emotion of these songs, so subtle is the performance. But repeated listens reveal all of the feeling you could want. And, as I said, the energy of the music comes through just fine.
The first few songs on the album are about seeking shelter from the stresses of the world in the arms of a lover. Covered emphasizes how external forces are acting upon the narrator, while Rise is more focused on the sanctuary that the relationship provides. As My Eyes Run Wild is the closest thing on the album to folk, and here the storm clouds start to break. The narrator contemplates the course a relationship has taken, and how a love has matured with age. This sets the stage for Million to One, the song. The title track is an all-out rocker, and the words celebrate love without fears. The rest of the album looks at love from various angles. On the Road explains how a couple of musicians can cope with stresses of the road, as long as they are together. Who’s Who has a dry sense of humor; it explains that the meaning of love is not to be found in reference books. And by album’s end with Summer Sun, love has become a source of peace.
So lyrically, Million to One the album describes a journey through the stages of love. Musically, it finds Mike and Ruthy taking another step on the journey towards their own sound. I look forward to seeing where this journey will take them next.
Mike and Ruthy: Million to One
Mike and Ruthy: On the Road