In a post on The Key blog, WXPN host John Vettese listed his Top Six Music Finds of 2019. Check out what he said about Stella Ruze below and read the full article (entitled The Key’s Year-End Mania: John Vettese’s Top Six Philly Music Finds of 2019) in the link at the bottom.
The roots-rock ensemble Stella Ruze has operated in my orbit for a while now — they’ve been a band for five years, and I’ve recognized their name on show bills for at least three of those years. But a hot August afternoon and a packed tent at the Philadelphia Folk Festival was where I truly clicked with them. Stella Ruze played the last on a lineup of showcasing Folksong Society’s Philly Music Co-Op, and when I saw that the seven musicians filing onstage had not only the standard guitar-bass-drums fare, but also sax, trumpet, keys, and mandolin, my curiosity was piqued and I opted to stick around. Good move: the high-energy John Prine cover that they opened the set with totally drew me in, and the original that came later, “Open,” was a rousing singalong with horn fanfare, a swiftly jogging rhythm, and a sense of ebullient uplift. Stella Ruze draws on traditional sounds and styles, for certain — Celtic, bluegrass, New Orleans brass — but they don’t want to play to a room of people sitting in chairs or holding the wall on the perimeter. They want you on your feet, ready to dance, and they give you the energy to do it, singing about life and friendship and community. Their new album, The Greater Dog, is out in February.
The Greater Dog will be available on all streaming platforms Friday, Jan. 17; Record release show Saturday, Jan. 18 at Boot & Saddle
PHILADELPHIA- Philadelphia Roots Rock band Stella Ruze today announced the release of its debut full-length album, The Greater Dog, on Friday, January 17, 2020. The album comes at a pivotal time for the band, having just been named a top Philly music find for 2019 by 88.5 WXPN’s The Key; and winner of the Folk/Country category in the PHL Live Center Stage 2019 competition, sponsored by Philadelphia City Councilman David Oh.
The new record represents an alignment of fates that has produced a diverse and ambitious collection of songs. Over the past two years, the addition of a permanent rhythm section and saxophone has completed Stella Ruze’s lineup, and pushed the now seven-piece band further into a category of Roots Rock that is at once both fresh and familiar. This sound is born in Philadelphia, unapologetic and unafraid to shed labels while staying true to the American rock & roll continuum.
“Our new sound emboldens our message to fans,” says lead singer, Brendan Johnson. “The common theme of The Greater Dog is the search for love and purpose in pursuit of life’s many adventures. This message is a metaphor for the band itself, a group of working adults who resolve to devote their free time and resources to the pursuit of something we all love. Through this record, we are encouraging our listeners to do the same.”
The Greater Dog was recorded over several months in the spring and summer of 2019. After visiting with multiple local studios, the band decided to work with Philly-rock guru Brian McTear at Miner Street Recordings in Fishtown. The decidedly edgy ethos of McTear and wunderkind engineer Matt Poirier evidently rubbed off on the band. Crunchy electric guitars and thick drum sounds replaced the folkier acoustic tendencies of the band’s previous records. This veritable blue-eyed soul stew layers modern indie folk vocal harmonies over horn-infused classic rock to create a new organic musical experience.
The 411 blog featured “Open” as the Song of the Day!
“Their newest single is called “Open”. It starts out bright with horns and a tight snare beat. The beat stays hopeful throughout. The lyrics “My heart is always open” really projects the thought behind the single. “Always be the light that guides” really captures the upbeat and joyous feeling the song carries. If you need a good midweek or mid-day pick me up head on over to YouTube and check out this new single with its brand new music video. The video is filled with smiles and dancing crowds of fans. It really shows the listener/viewer how thrilling a live performance from this gaggle of musicians can be.”
Stella Ruze – “Open” -This is a bit more up tempo, more toward the folk rock style. It’s got a Tom Petty flavor to it at times and I’m not mad about that. The rollicking vibe makes it feel like a fun Friday night out with friends. There’s some common folk philosophy about opening your heart here that fits well with the overall approach. That organ and horn work — swooooon.
Stella Ruze just announced that they’ll return with their next album, The Greater Dog, in the new year. The seven-piece folk/roots-rock band led by Brendan Johnson and Katie O’Donnell formed in Manayunk in 2014, and shared their debut LP two years later. The Greater Dog will be the band’s first release since their 2017 self-titled EP.
The Greater Dog‘s lead single, “Open,” is out now, and the band also shared a music video filmed by Skyler Jenkins, that sets tour footage to the upbeat song. Watch the band as they travel the open road, play shows — including the stellar set The Key caught at Philadelphia Folk Fest in August — and record their new tunes in the studio.
“Who’s Next Because: Stella Ruze has years of experience performing gigs in bars and parties across Philadelphia while lead vocalist Brendan Johnson sings and trumpet calls linger. Their performances are highlighted by steady guitar grooves and fiery interplay between trumpet and keyboard, and choruses bring the entire band together in four-part harmonies.”
“But the band is able to fulfill that self-supplied label with the genre-crossing sound it prides itself so heavily on. Folky vibes line the vocal harmonies of Brendan Johnson and Katie Burke and their string work on mandolin and guitar. The Lumineers tag is prevalent in songs like “Chivalry” and “Windows,” while the similarities to Trombone Shorty are more obviously heard in brass numbers like “Somebody Told Me.” And with keyboard work from Mason Wallack, the sound is completed to occupy something at the intersection of folk, jazz, and pop.”