Rube & Rake’s “Back and Forth” Pushes Forward

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To give something a “glowing review” is usually just a turn of speech, an idiom that easily conveys adoration. But here it means so much more — Rube and Rake’s Back and Forth truly glows. It glows bright with songs about love, about loss, about change, about life. It’s rustic charm evokes a steady stream of cinematic shots that connect to the listener on a level that every artist should be envious of.

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The melodies jump out of your speakers to tell you stories, to regale you with anecdotes and homely ballads. Some albums are made for passive energy, some require you to listen intently — this one holds your hand and takes you willingly. It shines with an honesty and flows with an ease that is often taken for granted.

It’s a fine show of duality, with two young men mirroring each other to create the full picture. Josh Sandu and Andrew Laite stand next to each other, opposite handed grips, pointing their instruments away from each other. One takes the high harmony, the other the low. They’re even from separate ends of the country – Laite’s a local, Sandu hails from Prince George, BC. The countered polarities create a charge, weaving together gold in a sort of esoteric alchemy. They’re a match that’s balanced; their union is complementary and pushes the album into territory that wouldn’t be possible individually.

To put it in context, it’s hard not to draw lines to Simon & Garfunkel, or the Milk Carton Kids, or even the earliest First Aid Kit records. It relies on a dialogue between two talents, quietly negotiating the space between them. What makes it extra special is that there’s no egos to wrangle.

The tension that keeps the album focused is selfless – it’s innately wired into the songs instead of lying on some sort of self-serving surface level. It’s a true give-and-take, one where the product is enriched because of the honest creative spirits. It has minimalistic intention.

There’s only a few extra flourishes scattered throughout thanks to guests Carole Bestvater (Fiddle) and Matt Hender (Upright Bass). Everything else is a folk synthesis that breaks down to the core of songwriting. There’s a lot to be said in how two voices can sound so full and feel so present.

In a city so insular, it’s often the prerogative of a music writer to judge an album amongst its peers. The reality is, there’s a soft line between covering and critiquing. This album breaks the mold of simply trying to impress the locals – its appeal is universal. The nuance, performance, and tone are world class. This is not just an album that stands tall in crowded local scene – it’s one that has the bearings to allow them to race away from it.

Given the actual, physical circumstances of being based on a rock in the middle of the Atlantic, the industry here uses a go-to keyword: export-ready. With the right audience and coverage, this album is the epitome of it. It can stand on its own merits on any circuit, on any radio station, or on any stage. This is not just the best folk album I’ve heard out of our city in a long time – this is the best folk album I’ve heard in years. Period.

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Brad Pretty

Brad Pretty dresses like an old man.

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