As a labor and delivery nurse at Baptist Women’s Hospital, singer-songwriter Faith Evans Ruch knows a thing or two about giving birth. And though the 25-year-old doesn’t have kids of her own, this weekend she delivers her first CD, 1835 Madison, a project that by music industry standards had a remarkably quick and trouble-free gestation.
“I’ve only been playing guitar a little over two years,” says Ruch, who celebrates the release of 1835 Madison on Saturday with a show at Minglewood Hall’s 1884 Lounge. “I think the album is kind of an honest portrayal of a person who is just learning and getting started. While the songs all flow together because they are coming from me, at the same time I was exploring some different areas.”
Though her music career is young, Ruch is no stranger to music. The Memphis native remembers as a child putting on impromptu performances for her family, who wondered where she got her naturally clarion singing voice.
She also took lyric writing classes, which showed her how to turn her notebook poetry into songs. But Ruch proved to be a typically restless teen unable to focus her love of country and folk music into practice.
“You know when you’re a teenager you want to do something new every month,” she says. “I actually had asked my dad to get me a guitar when I was 14, and he did. That’s the guitar I ended up teaching myself to play on, a Taylor Big Baby. But it never got played until two years ago. He got it for me, and a month later I moved on to something else.”
It wasn’t until she graduated from nursing school that Ruch finally picked up that guitar.
“In nursing school I didn’t have a whole lot of time for hobbies. My hobby was studying,” she says. “But once I got out of school, I’d get off work, and I didn’t have homework to do anymore. I needed something to do with myself.”
Impressed by her Emmylou Harris-like vocals, friends encouraged Ruch to begin performing. She recalls making her performance debut at the Midtown bar Neil’s, a now-destroyed and relocated haunt that lends its address to the tile of Ruch’s record, where she sang “Angel From Montgomery” with local singer-songwriter Craig Davis.
“I thought, ‘well, that sucked,’” she says, “but everyone was like, ‘no, ma’am, that did not suck.’”
From that first performance, it was only a few months before Ruch walked into the Memphis Music Foundation’s Downtown offices with a handful of songs looking for help on making a record. Working with John Miler of the Foundation’s Music Resource Center, she developed a recording plan and met producer Kevin Houston, who helmed 1835 Madison.
Houston helped Ruch polish her songs, which reflect her admiration of artists like Harris, Linda Ronstadt and Patti Griffin. The record also includes a cover of the traditional song “Down to the River To Pray,” made famous by Alison Krauss on the award-winning soundtrack to O Brother, Where Art Thou?
Houston also recruited an ace studio band for the February session that included Reba Russell guitarist Josh Roberts, the North Mississippi Allstars’ Luther Dickinson on mandolin, Lucero’s Rick Steff on organ, multi-instrumentalist Richard Ford, Paul Taylor on washtub bass, and the in-demand horn section of Jim Spake and Scott Thompson.
“It was a little intimidating. I definitely felt like a little girl,” she says of being surrounded by some of the city’s top players on her first recording session. “I remember meeting Luther. I had to check with my friends afterward: Was I cool? Did I act like an idiot in front of these people? Did I seem chill?”
For her CD release show, Ruch will be backed by a no-less-distinguished band that includes Victor Wainwright guitarist Nick Black, Jobu Babin on pedal steel guitar, Jesse Dakota on drums, and Andrew Geraci on bass. Ruch, who currently works part time, hopes that with a CD in hand she’ll be able soon to take the act on the road, but she remains modest about her music ambitions.
“I don’t really think I’m going to get played on the radio a whole lot because a lot of the music I love doesn’t get played on the radio a whole lot,” says Ruch, who for now would just like to get out and perform more.
“I love my job. I get to bring life into the world every day. What an awesome job. But it can get really stressful, so this has been a really great outlet. It let me unwind from the day and let my mind go and focus on something that isn’t so meticulous and detail oriented. That’s necessary in a hospital because you’re dealing with people’s lives. You can kind of do whatever you want with music. There’s no rules there.”
Faith Evans Ruch
CD release party, 7 p.m. Saturday, 1884 Lounge, 1555 Madison inside Minglewood Hall. Cover: $5, $10 with CD. 901-312-6058. Visit minglewoodhall.com.