Oakland singer-songwriter Joe Rut may not be a household name, but fans of alt-country, Americana, and folk will quickly find themselves drawn to the creative ramblings of this quirky character. Rut counts acts like Todd Snider, Jason Isbell, The Band, and the Grateful Dead as influences, and those influences can be heard on the impressive collection of songs that make up his new album Stolen Tools & Stereos, which comes out on October 25th. Those who know his music or have been lucky enough to catch Rut in the live setting know him as a crafty guitarist and a songwriter who disarms the listener with humor while striking to the heart of the matter. He brings the same natural chemistry to Stolen Tools.
Much of the album was written in a year-long road trip, during which Joe travelled the main streets and backroads of California with his dog Potato in a converted Ford Econoline Van, writing songs daily in The Pretty Good Book, a 3-inch thick antique accounting ledger given to him by friends for the trip. “They told me to fill it up. I filled 200 pages. It needed a name. I thought it was better than pretty good,” says Joe, “but ‘The Good Book’ was already taken, so…”
What really elevates the songs on Stolen Tools & Stereos is the band and guest performers, including David Grisman (Jerry Garcia, Old and In The Way), pedal steel master Bobby Black (Commander Cody, Asleep at the Wheel), and Scott Amendola (Charlie Hunter, Nels Cline). Today we are presenting an exclusive premiere of one of those songs right here on Glide Magazine. “Sleepy Rain” features mandolin legend David Grisman, and it’s interesting to hear his skills outside of the bluegrass realm. The song is a laid back country rocker blissfully anchored by Grisman’s mandolin, a twangy pedal steel, and just a touch of organ. Joe Rut takes on a rambler’s persona as the sight of an old car triggers a stream of nostalgia.
In his own words about the inspiration and personnel of the tune, Rut says:
“Sleepy Rain” was written during a drive between San Francisco and Eureka, California. I was passed by a 1967 Ford Fairlane station wagon doing about 90 mph, and it just jogged something loose. I used to have the same car, and I wished I had it back. Never shoulda sold it. I just kept pulling over and all these verses were flowing out, mostly about things that were gone. I usually try to squash that kind of impulse, but it was just unsquashable. The song wrote itself in about an hour.
When it came time to record it, Steve Jarvis (Commander Cody, Clifton Chenier) was helping produce the track at 25th Street Recording in Oakland. I was hearing fiddle and pedal steel in my head. He said he thought mandolin would work better against the pedal steel (staccato vs sustain). That made sense to me. “Cool. Call David Grisman”, I said, jokingly, and walked out of the room to get a coffee. When I came back in, he was on the phone with David Grisman! I had no idea he even knew him! I’ve been a Grisman fan since first hearing him play on The Grateful Dead song “Ripple”, and I loved Old And In The Way, his bluegrass project with Jerry Garcia. Grisman said he would give the song a listen, and if he liked it he would play on it. He got back to us a day later and said he was in! Jarvis also called Bobby Black (Commander Cody, Asleep At The Wheel) to fill the pedal steel chair, and the interplay between Black and Grisman just raises the hair on the back of my neck every time I hear this track. The sensitivity of their playing to the lyric is just magical. Two masters of their art form.
Stolen Tools & Stereos is out on October 25th. For more music and info visit joerut.com
Photo credit: Myles Boisen