Like She’s Never Been Gone: Ruth Moody Makes A Triumphant Return On Wanderer

At last, the Wanderer has come home.

Today marks the official release of Ruth Moody’s long-awaited Wanderer, her first solo album in over 10 years. And with just one listen, it’s clear that every step the JUNO-Award-winning folkster’s path has taken since then has brought her to a place that feels reassuringly familiar yet bristles with the thrill of discovery.

Recorded with co-producer Dan Knobler at the legendary Sound Emporium in Nashville, where Moody spends more of her time, the album features 10 new songs that revel in a fresh and hard-earned maturity even when they’re casting an unsparing eye toward the past. Once again wielding that gorgeous soprano The Huffington Post says could be “the prettiest voice in all of North Americana these days,” Moody leverages her mighty accomplishments as both a solo artist and a member of the celebrated trio the Wailin’ Jennys, into a career-high statement of creative and personal vitality.

The artistic growth is in abundance on tracks that range from the nostalgic to the forward-facing. “Seventeen” is a wistful reflection on adolescent mistakes, while “The Spell of the Lilac Bloom,” a duet with Joey Landreth of Winnipeg roots-rock luminaries The Bros. Landreth, is brimming with optimism for a relationship that’s blossoming in the here and now. On a markedly different tack, “Already Free” chronicles the yearning for emancipation Moody felt during the COVID lockdowns of a few years ago.

Throughout the album, the open-tuned guitars and soaring pedal steel mesh perfectly with the singer-songwriter’s delicate but assured vocal delivery. All the while, the infectious melodies and accessible messages carry enough commercial appeal to vault the record into the upper echelons of the pop marketplace.

The critics are already raving. Folk Alley calls the record “exquisite,” lauding the way it combines “spellbinding layers of vocals, instruments, and lyrics as it evokes the newness and the hope of love.” PopMatters says Wanderer is “a sweeping, swirling mix of nostalgia surrounding young love gone awry and what could have been, with striking vocals that conjure wistful images of 1960s-era Joni Mitchell.” Americana UK’s 9/10 review declares “It’s not every day that an album sweeps you off your feet and hits the spot on first listening. Nor does every album have a complete set of songs that take your breath away. Yet, here we have both in this new album, Wanderer, from award-winning multi-instrumentalist singer-songwriter Ruth Moody.” And Americana Highways lauds how “Moody acknowledges the points when we seem to slip and fall apart completely, just as part of the human condition.”

It’s all a fitting coda to the extended hiatus Moody has been on since her last album, These Wilder Things, dropped in 2013. Having put her creative pursuits on pause to start a family and raise a child, she’s emerged with her musical instincts fine-tuned and her support structure firmly in place. As co-produced by Knobler (Allison Russell, Lake Street Dive) and mixed by Tucker Martine (Madison Cunningham, First Aid Kit), the record represents a harmonic convergence of some of Moody’s favorite musicians—including her partner, Sam Howard, who plays upright bass and provides backing vocals, and her older brother, Richard Moody, who contributes violin, viola and mandolin. Other stalwarts appearing on the album include Jennys touring member Anthony da Costa (guitars), Jason Burger (drums), Kai Welch (keyboards), Russ Pahl (pedal steel) and Adrian Dolan (string arrangements).

Having family around her while she works her melodic magic is second nature to a woman who spent her childhood on a goat farm in Manitoba, receiving a dual education in music and English from her highly cultured parents. Singing with her siblings led her to take up the guitar, and by her 20s, she had co-founded The Wailin’ Jennys, who swiftly became a Billboard-charting and JUNO-winning success. They remain not only active but wildly popular to this day, even with Moody pursuing the fruitful parallel solo career she set out on in 2010. Over the years, she’s also found time to engage in some high-profile collaborations with the legendary Mark Knopfler, performing as a member of his touring band and making guest appearances on his records. He’s returned the favor by cameo-ing on hers.

With Wanderer now out on Moody’s Blue Muse Records distributed via True North Records, she’s reintroducing herself to audiences on a tour of top listening rooms in the U.S.

On stage as on record, the 2024 renaissance of Ruth Moody proves that all who wander are not lost—sometimes, they’re just looking for a better way to get back home.