Brian Rudy &
the Architects,
Divided Man
(Think Music Tank, 1999)

I usually don't have a hard time writing music reviews. When I find a CD I like, it's pretty easy for me to sit down and tell you why. It's also pretty easy for me to tell you why you shouldn't rush out and buy a CD for your own collection, too. But when I'm faced with a CD as stunningly intricate and well-balanced as Brian Rudy's debut, Divided Man -- well, I'm almost at a loss for words.

I said almost. I mean, c'mon, you don't think I'd actually pass up an opportunity to rave about my latest favorite, do you?

Rudy deserves all the praise I can give him, plus more (and he's getting it, if the glowing reviews in his press packet are any measure of what folks are saying about him). The hard part is knowing where to start.

Rudy, a Canadian-born songwriter, architect (hence the band name) and contemporary of Jory Nash, hits the mark on all fifteen songs on this CD. The first track, an instrumental piece called "Nietzschian Slip," beautifully showcases Rudy's ear for tight arrangements as well as his stellar playing ability. It deftly slips from Celtic-based rhythms reminiscent of The Chieftains to a looser, folksy style (I'm thinking America here) and back again without ever missing a beat. Track 2, "Change in the Weather," picks up on that rhythm and carries it into an upbeat song about relationships, which is lyrically anything but what you'd expect.

"The Meeting" opens in a way that reminds me of Gordon Lightfoot -- clear, acoustic balladry and layered vocals -- but soon segues into a more contemporary styling, similar to Jory Nash (another Lightfoot fan). Rudy's guitar playing really stands out on this number, as it should. His playing style draws attention, whether it's on the CD or at a live show; Rudy, a lefty, taught himself to play by flipping a right-hand guitar upside-down and learning the chords that way. It's a style he's stuck with, and that innovation has certainly paid off.

"I Will Return," one of my favorite songs on the CD, provides listeners with another beautiful sample of Rudy's clear, expressive voice. "Divided Man Suite" thematically offers one of the more comprehensive explorations of the CD's themes -- the division between a life of labor and a love of music. Consisting of five songs ("The Market Place," "The Two Halves," "Divided," "Alone (Thesis)" and "Reconciliation (Troy)," this track takes many of the rhythms of previous songs on the CD and heads off in interesting new directions with them, constantly keeping the music right on the edge.

The CD ends, appropriately I should add, with "The Cattle Run," one of Rudy's best pieces lyrically: "And when the dust settles I pick myself up slow / shake off my youth and turn to go." This song efffectively serves to tie together all the pieces, musically and thematically, bringing the CD full circle for another listen.

Not only does Rudy have evident talent for writing and arranging, but he's got a knack for pulling together the right performers to enhance his original work. Rudy covers vocals, acoustic guitars, and mandolin with Brent Klassen on electric guitars, Kevin Ranney on piano, Tom Daniels on bass and Gavin Jones on drums. Other musicians of note are Sheila Grunner on violin, Catherine Thompson on cello and Dave Clark on drums. The performances are tight and richly textured, to say the least.

The artwork and layout also deserve kudos; the cover features a gorgeously eccentric painting by Laurie Buhr, and Rudy provides several original drawings on the inner CD jacket.

I usually use this space in my reviews to give a final plug for the CD, but I can't give Brian Rudy any more praise without sounding redundant. There is one thing more I'd like to say, though. My father taught me all I know about music -- what I like and what I don't like were formed in large part because of his influences and teaching. He passed away in May of this year. I can think of nothing I would like more than to be able to share this CD with him. He'd love it; I'm sure of that.

[ by Audrey M. Clark ]