Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Recording engineered by Patrick Stolley at Futureappletree Too
The rub in the morning, for the guys that Nashville songwriter Ruston Kelly writes about, is exactly the same as the rub in the evening. It rarely changes and barely wavers. It's stuck in a groove of downpour and despair, but still with a sense of what could knock it loose and what could flip the script around. They have an idea of where the pretty little pockets are, pockets that could sweep the clouds completely out of the sky and get the dimples back in their cheeks, the straightness back into their backs. They think they know what the problem is, but knowing that doesn't go very far at all when the problem is them.
You see, it's about as daunting as it gets, knowing that you're the problem and still feeling like to change that would be to change too much. You might not be the cream of the crop, but you're usually okay with who you are - within reason. There's always going to be that voice in the background that still wants to blame the real issues on the other person - the girl with too high of expectations, with unreasonable wants - even when it's simple to see that you're mistaken. She likely deserves better, or you're undeserving. It's here where Kelly, who tends to sounds like a more countrified version of AA Bondy, blurs that intersection of contrasts.
A song such as "Songbird" - a delightful piece of sad sack woe - paints the picture of a man who sings like an old, black crow, who shuffles instead of swings when he dances and takes on the appearance and demeanor of a beat-up dog. He can never stack up for a girl who is looking for a man who resembles a lion, who can dance up a storm and who can sing her off her feet. The man here knows that this is a mountain that he's not going to be able to climb. He had to hope that she will meet him halfway or just come down to the base of the mountain and slum it with him and his doggish ways.