A bit of a ruckus

BY DEREK BARBER
Daily Arts Writer
Published July 22, 2007

In the last few years, the Ann Arbor area has become prime ground for a bustling indie-folk scene. While the resurgence of grassroots music is indeed a blessing, it has obvious drawbacks. How do music lovers begin to dig through the pile of banjo pickers or navigate all the humble myspace pages in search of the real gems? Carefully, that's how.

Jessica Boullion
Heading the folk front ... porch. (Courtesy of Frontier Ruckus)

Frontier Ruckus, who will be performing at the Blind Pig next Sunday, is well worth discovering.

On the surface, the group's blend of acoustic guitars, banjo, pedal steel and harmonica may not appear particularly unique - but listen closer. There's something hidden deep down within the music of Frontier Ruckus, something akin to a petal-opening honesty and a tenderness that refuses to wither.

"We love our families. We love our twilight trees. We love our memories. Salt pours out into the river," lead vocalist Mathew Milia sings (or rather, declares) on "Adirondack Amish Holler." Although this is a rare moment in which the band reaches a volume worthy of its name, it's also just one of the many lovely and brilliant songs from the band's debut EP I Am the Water You Are Pumping.

Milia's sentiments - a hunger and longing for the past - reoccur thematically in many of Ruckus's songs. While lyrical images of flickering lights from old gas stations during the winter and the sound of a mother's voice calling her child in for dinnertime, may not be the same memories of every young American adult, it isn't difficult to feel as though they could be.

Milia is the kind of songwriter who understands how fallible our memories can be. A single grey Michigan winter could never mean exactly the same thing for two people. Within the banjo harmonies of songs like "Dark Autumn Hour" the listener discovers that even a single grey isn't really black and white. Like the song, it is filled with many shades of emotion and forgetfulness.

One of Frontier Ruckus's greatest strengths, however, is that its members are young. Along with the natural honesty contained within their music, there is also promise for something even greater yet to come.

Joining the band Sunday is the ultra-talented, much-lauded (and confirmed Ruckus fan) Chris Bathgate, as well as folk-poppers Arrah and the Ferns and songwriter That's Him! That's The Guy. Concertgoers should expect a night when people come together under one roof to not only enjoy sincere music, but also as a means of growing future memories - ones worth having.

Frontier Ruckus
July 29
9:00 p.m.

$7 Under 21/ $10

At the Blind Pig