Music

Country's Ruthie Collins Finds 'Cold Comfort'

Photo: Cal & Aly / Courtesy of Missing Piece Group

Ruthie Collins' Cold Comfort is devoid of glittery instrumentation and mellifluous lyrics. Instead, the music is raw, sometimes bitter yet earning for optimism. Collins' grittiness is measured and her anguish certain.

Cold Comfort
Ruthie Collins

Sidewalk Records / Curb Records

3 April 2020

Self-growth often arrives at the end of a mercurial and tumultuous period. At least it did for Ruthie Collins. Coping with a break-up and the specter of a loved one's addiction, Collins needed to look inward and summon the bravery to trust herself. In doing so, she clandestinely tucked herself into the studio to record Cold Comfort. Without the hindrance of expectations and with no one to face but herself, Collins takes control of her sound and herself. Forgoing permission enabled Collins to cultivate peace with her pain while valuing the emotional journey leading her to the creation of Cold Comfort.

Addiction is a personal focus for Collins, as "Joshua Tree" and "You Can't Remember" are influenced by her relationship with an addict. In a discussion of the latter, Collins recalls, "I wrote that song three days after we had to call 911 and have my boyfriend at the time hospitalized for an OD." The track is a captivating impression of the effect of addiction on those watching the battle. She is undeniably impassioned when she sings, "You ain't just killing yourself / Now you're killing me." Collins' understanding of addiction is respectful and empathic. She never blames her boyfriend for his dependency or constructs an essentialist portrayal of addiction. By including her story among an addiction narrative, she demonstrates the painful impact on everyone rendered powerless by dependency.

"Joshua Tree" captures the energy and mystery of the location, as Collins gracefully commits descriptions of the natural park to music. The soaring strings underscoring Collins' lulling vocals recreates Joshua Tree's otherworldliness and endows the lyrics "meet me where a million stars catch fire to the sky". Yet it is the music video's depiction of addiction that exhibits the gravity and alleviates the lightness. Partially shot in the room that Gram Parsons' overdosed, the video for "Joshua Tree" repositions the ethereal back into the real.

Collins embraces Americana and country music aesthetics more than any other genre. "Cheater" is emblematic of red dirt country. The upbeat tempo reiterates the classic juxtaposition of jaunty music with heartsick lyrics. The refrain's repetition of the word cheater is haunting in its self-blame. In the finale "Beg Steal Borrow", the adroit fingerpicking exalts Collins twangy vocals. The album's old-school country vibes separate Cold Comfort from Collins' previous work that featured threads of pop music. Cold Comfort is devoid of glittery instrumentation and mellifluous lyrics. Instead, the music is raw, sometimes bitter yet earning for optimism. Collins' grittiness is measured and her anguish certain.

Cold Comfort is a breakup postmortem. As she hopes for in "Wish You Were Here", "I thought I'd find some peace of mind". Throughout, Collins centralizes her past and her role in enabling a toxic relationship. In "Hey Little Girl", Collins contends with her conscience and actions as she asks herself, "Didn't your mama teach you better?" The title track is contemplative of the time and energy Collins invested into the relationship. As the lyrics express that she is better off without the relationship, the music establishes the long-lasting effects of solitude. The song's final minutes are spent in lush instrumentation, and Collins is silent. The emphasis on the music symbolizes the turmoil as she lacks the language to describe the emotion fully.

Although the album gathers inspiration from a dark and challenging chapter of Collins' life, Cold Comfort catches the progression towards strength and self-understanding. "Change" accepts her inability to change other people and illustrates a step in Collins' healing. In "Bad Woman", she recognizes, "[I] think I can make it without you / I'll do it if I have to." Whereas the ballad finds Collins considering stealing another woman's boyfriend, Collins ultimately realizes this act doesn't reflect her sense of self. She remains genuine while validating her responses to hardship. Holding space to value her truest self is the impetus for the entire album. It is this ethos that renders Cold Comfort such an alluring listen.

7
Music


Books


Film


Recent
Books

How the Template for Modern Combat Journalism Developed

The superbly researched Journalism and the Russo-Japanese War tells readers how Japan pioneered modern techniques of propaganda and censorship in the Russo-Japanese War.

Film

From Horrifying Comedy to Darkly Funny Horror: Bob Clark Films

What if I told you that the director of one of the most heartwarming and beloved Christmas movies of all time is the same director as probably the most terrifying and disturbing yuletide horror films of all time?

Music

The 50 Best Songs of 2007

Journey back 13 years to a stellar year for Rihanna, M.I.A., Arcade Fire, and Kanye West. From hip-hop to indie rock and everywhere in between, PopMatters picks the best 50 songs of 2007.

Music

'Modern' Is the Pinnacle of Post-Comeback Buzzcocks' Records

Presented as part of the new Buzzcocks' box-set, Sell You Everything, Modern showed a band that wasn't interested in just repeating itself or playing to nostalgia.

Music

​Nearly 50 and Nearly Unplugged: 'ChangesNowBowie' Is a Glimpse Into a Brilliant Mind

Nine tracks, recorded by the BBC in 1996 show David Bowie in a relaxed and playful mood. ChangesNowBowie is a glimpse into a brilliant mind.

Music

Reaching for the Sky: An Interview with Singer-Songwriter Bruce Sudano

How did Bruce Sudano become a superhero? PopMatters has the answer as Sudano celebrates the release of Spirals and reflects on his career from Brooklyn Dreams to Broadway.

Music

Inventions Conjure Mystery and Hope with the Intensely Creative 'Continuous Portrait'

Instrumental duo Matthew Robert Cooper (Eluvium) and Mark T. Smith (Explosions in the Sky) release their first album in five years as Inventions. Continuous Portrait is both sonically thrilling and oddly soothing.

Music

Esperanza Spalding and Fred Hersch Are 'Live at the Village Vanguard' to Raise Money for Musicians

Esperanza Spalding and Fred Hersch release a live recording from a 2018 show to raise money for a good cause: other jazz musicians.

Music

Lady Gaga's 'Chromatica' Hides Its True Intentions Behind Dancefloor Exuberance

Lady Gaga's Chromatica is the most lively and consistent record she's made since Born This Way, embracing everything great about her dance-pop early days and giving it a fresh twist.

Love in the Time of Coronavirus

Street Art As Sprayed Solidarity: Global Corona Graffiti

COVID-19-related street art functions as a vehicle for political critique and social engagement. It offers a form of global solidarity in a time of crisis.

Music

Gretchen Peters Honors Mickey Newbury With "The Sailor" and New Album (premiere + interview)

Gretchen Peters' latest album, The Night You Wrote That Song: The Songs of Mickey Newbury, celebrates one of American songwriting's most underappreciated artists. Hear Peters' new single "The Sailor" as she talks about her latest project.

Music

Okkyung Lee Goes From Classical to Noise on the Stellar 'Yeo-Neun'

Cellist Okkyung Lee walks a fine line between classical and noise on the splendid, minimalist excursion Yeo-Neun.

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews

Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.