Speaking In Melodies
By Ralph Burnett
"I makin' the music that I feel . . . I'm not just trippin' ," is probably why singer, songwriter, and keyboardist Michael Ruff has had his songs recorded by Bonnie Raitt, Huey Lewis, Roberta Flack and other mutual admirerers. A colleague of the "thirty something" crowd, Michael writes about matters of the heart and soul that stretch way beyond the boundaries of your average baby boomer. His debut Speaking In Melodies (Sheffield Lab CD-35) is an appropriate documentation of Michael's dynamic craft. One thing that elevates Ruff above the pool of good songwriters is his uncanny ability to express sincere ideas without filtering them through the newspeak of media and politics. Here's an excerpt form Michael's favorite track "Poor Boy:"
Listen to the rain, like glass breaking slowly
My heart's breaking right on time
Listen to the water, like a thousand people kissing
Or one person walking away
Listen to the wind, like young lovers passions
Or old people passing away
In all these things I hear you
In all these ways you call to me
Calling me poor boy
"I think it's real, I think it's without pretense," is how Ruff describes Sheffield's signature live-to-two track recording process. "I'm comfortable playing and singing at the same time and I like the spontaneity that happens. People can feel each other while their playing, and that's the real thing." In the computer world, WYSIWYG represents a trendy acronym for "What You See Is What You Get." And even though it sounds a bit more inebriated, maybe Sheffield should adopt WYHIWYG, replacing "See" with "Hear," to describe what the players and engineers are up against in the studio. "You can't be too picky," smiles Michael, "you don't have months of scrutiny and overdubs." The result is music that is unusually real, punchy, and raw. If you haven't yet experienced a Sheffield Labs recording to test drive your speakers, this would be a good beginning.