Rube & Rake’s new album begins with an ode to family and friends— togetherness—as Josh Sandu declares, against a hopeful bluegrass backdrop, “somewhere there’s a place to lay my head.” Nine songs later, over a gently plucked guitar, he sings, “I won’t go picking it up, the weight of the page is just too much.”
Following the award-winning 2017 debut Back and Forth, the St. John’s- based Sandu and Andrew Laite wanted to keep the core of that album’s artistic successes—musical and collaborative harmony, folk storytelling—while recognizing audience expectations have intensified. “The first album ends up being the greatest hits of what you’ve done so far,” says Laite. “With record number two, you want it to be in the ring with the first one, only bigger and stronger.”
For their sophomore album Leaving With Nothing, Sandu and Laite enlisted producer Adam Hogan, best known for his anthemic guitar work as a member of Newfoundland’s most beloved indie-rock outfit, Hey Rosetta!. Recording in bits in houses around St. John’s, Rube & Rake (& Adam) worked to expand the band’s sound to include more instrumentation, pleasingly surprising time changes, and an overall expansion of intention.
“We knew that this grouping of songs deserved a different treatment and wanted to introduce somebody with different instincts and tendencies,” says Laite. “We were confident that Adam would shed the right light on these songs while also maintaining our methodology.” “He’s a very engaged person,” adds Sandu, “who had a lot of thoughts on every aspect of the recording process.”
Sandu and Laite have always maximized the duo configuration—even singing together at a single condenser microphone, allowing for space and patience within the songs—but this is the first time they’ve consciously pushed outside it, to fill in that air with new tones and textures in the form of a full band. The resulting record evokes Blue Rodeo at its most rollicking, Great Lake Swimmers at their most thoughtful, and The Tallest Man On Earth at their most gently contemplative.
The best distillation of all these themes, music and expectation and place, comes at the album’s midpoint, in the five-minute “10-33”—CB radio code for “mayday”—where Rube & Rake reveal themselves to be ready for anything. “This ain’t a common road, but you already know,” sings Sandu, “I will be leaving with nothing, a-dead-head I will go.”
The collection of 10 songs comprising Leaving With Nothing fits comfortably in the folk tradition of road-worn tales and lost love laments told across an ever-changing, often lonely landscape. Rube & Rake is for late-night wind-downs, long drives, a walk by the water: solitary and steadfast, honest and true.