Ronnie Bowman is really excited about the upcoming album from Band of Ruhks, formerly known as The Rambling Rooks. And when Ronnie gets excited, he starts to gush. No holding back for this successful Nashville songwriter, who possesses one of the most iconic voices in recent bluegrass history.
Band Of Ruhks involves a reunion of Bowman with two of his former Lonesome River Bandmates, Don Rigsby and Kenny Smith. The three of them worked with Sammy Shelor during one of the more memorable periods of the group, with all of them departing at the same time in 2001. While in LRB, they cut the band’s most commercially popular album, Finding The Way, along with One Step Forward and Talking To Myself.
Sammy went on to reform the band, while Ronnie, Don, and Kenny set out on solo careers. Now, 14 years later, the three amigos ride again, and are set to release a self-titled project on the 101 Ranch label, March 17.
Did I mention that Ronnie is excited at the prospect? When we spoke yesterday, he shared his unbridled enthusiasm for just about every aspect of the album.
The Name – He says that ruhks comes from an ancient Persian language, and was the word for a warrior’s chariot.
“They would dress up their chariots to look like a castle, and bring terror to anyone they were fighting. They looked like the chess piece, like a tower.
I love the name, and it’s weirdness. And it’s the original English spelling of the word.
Rambling Rooks was always a temporary name. We knew that when the record came out, we needed to define the name, and a brand. My wife, Garnet, suggested Band Of Ruhks, and it just stuck.”
The First Single – They’ve just released the audio for one of the tracks, one Ronnie wrote with Mark Collie called Coal Minin’ Man. The song starts out with an a cappella rendering of the melody by the great Ralph Stanley, and Ronnie was stoked about that.
“Ralph Stanley is as big as it gets in bluegrass. He’s like Bob Dylan big!
We’re working on a music video for that song, and instead of trying to get him to mouth the lyrics, we figured it would be cool to just film him walking around, being Ralph Stanley.”
Their Sound – Bowman said that when he and Kenny and Don started talking about a reunion effort, the plans revolved around this recording. He had some good new songs, and they hadn’t originally intended to perform much until the album was released. But word got out, and promoters were asking them to come, so they put together a show based on older Lonesome River Band material and went out as the Rambling Rooks, choosing different banjo players to help out as needed.
But when recording started in earnest, they wanted their own sound – something distinctive to themselves.
“We recorded this album based on faith, before we ever had a band. And before we had an identity.
Early on, we canned two sessions we cut at Scott Vestal’s studio, because after we listened it sounded just like The Lonesome River Band. We didn’t want to do that, because there’s already a Lonesome River Band.
We didn’t want to be the LR-used-to-B!
When you hear it, you’ll hear some americana or pop sound mixed in with the bluegrass. The bluegrass audience is the main one we’ll be working, and we want to appeal to them. But we want to be as big as we can, so we’ll just let the music speak for itself. It all leans on bluegrass, since that is how we came up, but it touches on other sounds.
Let’s take bluegrass and make it bigger!”
Their New Banjo Player – The Band Of Ruhks has hired John Meyer to play banjo, a talented young picker who has been working with his family group, MeyerBand.
“We tried a lot of people out, but we had to have the perfect fit. He’s a good-looking young kid, and he’ll make us look better – he’ll drive all the girls crazy. But seriously, he’s amazing, a very mature kid – and he gets it.”
Bowman says that despite having booked as separate acts this past 14 years, he, Don, and Kenny are now on the same page, and will be primarily pursuing their musical careers together.
“I think this record as a whole is the best work we’ve done together. We’ve all grown a lot since LRB, and we want to do more than go back and revisit the glory days. It just feels so good. I’m all in.
We’ve all committed to ‘this is what we’re doing.’ We have a manager, a booking agent, and a publicist. We’ve worked hard and methodically to get everything in place. We’re not playing around.”
The album drops on March 17, and Band Of Ruhks has scheduled a CD release event for the 18th at Nashville’s Station Inn. There will be an invitation-only reception and listening party early that evening, followed by a public concert that night.
I was able to preview the album last night, and Ronnie’s excitement is well-founded. These are some terrifically talented artists, and they work brilliantly together.
It will be great to have Ronnie Bowman back in bluegrass, and standing next to two giants like Kenny Smith and Don Rigsby.
Bring it on!