Feminist folk ensemble Ruby Mack imagine themselves as direct descendants of Eve. Not in the traditional story’s sense, but in a timeline in which she unashamedly consumed the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden, biting into knowledge and sharing it with all the world. Named for Massachusetts’ Pioneer Valley’s prominent Ruby McIntosh Apple, Emma Ayres (Vocals/guitar), Abbie Duquette (bass uke), Zoe Young (guitar/vocals), and Abs Kahler (fiddle) question what it means to be a woman, and in the case of Kahler, move in and out of the label with ease on their new album Devil Told Me, available digitally today. Throughout Devil Told Me, Ruby Mack offer new perspectives on old stories, from societal norms to Greek mythology. Devil Told Me can be purchased or streamed right now at this link.
Devil Told Me has already earned praise from critics for it’s soulfully executed and fiercely motivated message. AudioFemme described album single “Jane” as “soulfully capturing the love and loss associated with the LGBTQ experience,” and Farce The Music praised Ruby Mack’s “unabashed harmonies and pictorial lyricism” on “Machine Man.” American Songwriter touched on both Ruby Mack’s inseparable rapport with each other as well as their liberating and encouraging songwriting qualities on “Milktooth,” saying “As much a ‘coming out’ song as it is a song of empowerment, ‘Milktooth’ has the makings of a gay closet door opener, much like Bronski Beat’s ‘Smalltown Boy’ or Erasure’s ‘Hideaway’ was for boys,” before noting that “the support and care they project in this song to those who might be at the coming-out crossroads is their way of paying it forward.”
Through Ruby Mack’s collectively unique lens, folk songs start to emerge cast in a new, different light than those that came before. In the song “Breadwinner,” for example, the group flips the script about gender roles in a relationship, expressing their wish to be a breadwinner as a woman. “I wanna be your breadwinner / Let me feed you, let me feed you now,” the group sings in heart-stopping four-part harmony. The lullaby-esque “Milktooth” is a quiet anthem about shedding societal expectations, to become fully one’s self. It uses the idea of a milk tooth, or baby tooth, as a metaphor for attachment to a childhood based perspective. “It’s about rejecting the ways in which we are initially told who we are and what we are” explains Ayres “Always fighting in this civil war/ Since the devil told me I was born a girl”, they sing.
Ruby Mack credits the magic of the Massachusetts area they call home with inspiring their musical journey. “There’s such an amazing culture of folk music in the valley”, says Kahler, “and we’ve been inspired by so many queer folk artists here.” “I definitely found my identity as a musician in this place”, adds Duquette. “The support encouragement I found in the area made me feel like I too could be an artist.”
Recorded in an old converted church with engineer Andrew Oedel of Ghost Hit Recording, Devil Told Me has a decidedly live feel. “We really wanted it to have that special magic of a collaborative performance, and the energy we get from singing together,” explains Young. With strong and beautiful vocal harmonies, soothing guitar, and soaring fiddle lines, Ruby Mack have created a collection of songs both confessional and uplifting. In each other and their music the four friends have found a home in which they can question everything that society expects of them, live and express themselves in their true identity, and inspire others to do the same.