Ruark, the brainchild band of singer/songwriter Ruark Inman, debuts a fantastically evocative folk-rock effort in their virgin effort When You Coming Home that has critics abuzz this January for good reason indeed. An amalgamation of influences that extend from the contemporary to the rustic, When You Coming Home often feels like a lucid dream that has been reimagined as a studio LP, with some of its songs – such as “Sick of It,” “Naturally,” “Dry October Noon” and “Time Wouldn’t Waste Away” – bringing to mind both cerebral outsider folk and abrasive acoustic punk simultaneously. For as experimental a record as it is, it’s one I wouldn’t recommend missing out on this season.
Rollicking rhythm and haunting vocal harmonies comprise the whole of “Never Miss” while flowing string parts collide with a serenade as supple as is possible from within the studio environment in “Jack of all Trades,” but despite the subtle contrast between the aesthetical complexities of these two tracks (and many of the others here), nothing sounds particularly avant-garde or unnecessarily eclectic in When You Coming Home. Fluidity is far more important to Ruark than sonic muscularity and chest-beating machismo is – that’s evident even in the most cursory of listening sessions spent with this album – and for the postmodern style of music they’re playing, that’s the perfect approach to take.
The strings have as much to contribute to the underlying narrative of songs like “In His Hands” and the title track as any of the lyrics do, and I think that had the instrumentation not been afforded as much attention to detail as the vocal is, we wouldn’t be able to appreciate either of these compositions as well as we can in this present instance. Ruark aren’t using one channel of communication over another in When You Coming Home; on the contrary, they’re utilizing any and every tool at their disposal whilst steering clear of overindulgences at the same time.
I found the production quality of this disc to be remarkably well-polished, but with that being said, Ruark’s first album isn’t lacking in that certain DIY-efficiency that separates the true independent releases from the pseudo-subculture products you’d typically discover on the mainstream side of the dial. You can’t fake the emotion in the vocal dueling we hear in “Never Apart” nor that of the bludgeoning strings in “Sweet Senseless World” – if there’s still a place for organic harmonies and self-aware lyricism in this world, this LP would serve as its apex soundtrack.
When You Coming Home is a deceptively simplistic symphony of both emotional poetry and elegant instrumental melodicism of the most unpretentious variety, and although it’s devoid of the streamlined frills of a commercial folk release, this just might be what makes it such an exceptional listen this January. Ruark are making fat-free folk-rock for a millennial generation more concerned with substance of songcraft than they are cosmetic fireworks and pummeling percussive intensity, and something tells me that When You Coming Home is going to be but the first of many successful outings for their camp.