Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Sound engineering by Mike Gentry
The last time the Born Ruffians ruffians made a stop at the Horseshack, they taped a song that wasn't finished yet. "Sole Brother" was getting a good road testing and the Canadian trio felt good enough about the progression of the tune that they laid it down that afternoon and left it here to see what would happen. The instantly catchy and memorable song became ingrained in the heads of fans everywhere when it was played during their sets and the definitive recording of it was the one that happened in our humble little, former radio station studio, here on the banks of the mighty Mississippi River. That was fine then, but this has become something of a problem as Ruffians lead singer Luke LaLonde, bassist Mitch Derosier and drummer Steven Hamelin glance out at those crowds and see people singing the incorrect words, if only because, at the time of their last session, those words weren't incorrect and therefore, they are seared into these memories. Now, what could be considered as important of a track that there is on the group's newest album, "Say It," "Sole Brother," is a dynamic and groovy song that touches on the roles and responsibilities of grandchildren and what the workload might be for an only child. Somehow, LaLonde, Derosier and Hamelin make the thought sound as if it were all part of a practical sequence - this 11-year-old heading over to his 77-year-old grandpapa's house to rake his leaves or clean out his gutters. It's one young man taking responsibility for helping out the elderly. LaLonde sings, "You never ask a sister to help with the chores that are physically straining and sometimes I wish that I was a sole brother…an only child," on the song and it reinforces one of the most intriguing things about the band's music and lyricism - which runs the gamut from Deer Tick-like explosives, dancey delights and that old Talking Heads sound that's never not new or out of style. Born Ruffians music is never gamey. It never tastes like, or sounds like something that's been spoiled already, something that's been sitting under the hot lamps, waiting to be chosen out of the buffet line. These aren't songs about the standard things. LaLonde chooses to write about the pretty specifics and stays specific with them, rather than taking on the vagaries of others, attempting to shed any kind of new light on them. There is a domestic flair to some of his songs and he takes them into a personal domain that still gets to feeling as if the subject matter was something of an epidemic and easily transferred to nearly everyone listening. It's as if we're hearing a very atypical diary entry being sung to us, one that's not at all self-indulgent and is actually more poignant, interesting and descriptive than most would be. It feels as if the words can change on us, as if that would be an alright thing. It's just twice as many insights and that's perfectly okay.