The Key Studio Sessions: Stella Ruze - WXPN | Vinyl At Heart

Philadelphia’s Stella Ruze has a way of drawing an audience in.

Maybe it’s the uplifting vocal harmonies by vocalists Brendan Johnson and Katie O’Donnell, or the way her mandolin lines play off the bright keyboards of Mason Wallack. Maybe it’s the expressive energy of percussionist / trumpeter Alex Styer, or the way his horn leads interact with Gabe Preston’s sax. Maybe it’s the tight, breezy rhythms of bassist Ted Mayo and drummer Sean McIntyre. Maybe it’s all of those things, to stay nothing of their stylistic spectrum.

The band founded in the Manayunk hills in 2015, and began releasing EPs exploring a variety of sounds under the roots rock umbrella. Some moments are a little bit Celtic, like “Open,” the song Stella Ruze played at the top of their Key Studio Sessions performance. Some have a New Orleans flare, like “The Trollop and The Tippler.” Some rattle and roar like Crazy Horse, a trait we particularly hear in an expansive seven-minute performance of “Hustle The Load.”

If you had to align Stella Ruze to an artist that came before them, it be somebody like The Revivalists or Carbon Leaf, bands who can successfully straddle the modern rock and roots rock divide with charisma and positive energy. The songs the band played for this performance all draw on the band’s 2020 LP The Greater Dog, which dropped in January and was celebrated with a packed house release party at Boot & Saddle in February.

Watch them strip the title track down to a sensitive acoustic arrangement in the NPR Live Sessions video below, listen to their performance in full via Soundcloud, and catch one of Stella Ruze’s upcoming spring concerts; they’ve got two gigs this weekend at Harrisburg’s Millennium Music Conference — Friday, February 28th at Ever Grain Brewing Company, and Saturday, February 29th at Abbey Bar. They’ll play Lancaster’s Tellus360 on Saturday, March 7th, will take part in Singer Songwriter Cape May with a March 27th appearance at Congress Hall, and are back in Philly on Friday, April 3rd to open for The Rad Trads at City Winery. Get details on all these shows at the band’s website.

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