The music industry is kind of a mess. Record sales are lower than they’ve been in decades and no one seems to know how to fix that. So, what to do? If you’re Kelley Deal and Mike Montgomery, you revel in your freedom from the corporate machine. Their project R. Ring features two voices, two guitars, and occasional releases—commercialism be damned. The result, not too surprisingly, is a pure distillation of their obvious musical compatibility without any allowances made for radio or corporate sponsorship. That R. Ring’s singles have been released in batches of 50 or 60 in handmade wood and metal packaging underscores both the personal craftiness of the project and their complete disregard for appealing to the masses. But this isn’t a gimmick: the music they’ve shared so far is loose and dynamic and pretty fantastic.
A song like “Fallout & Fire” features the subtle advantages of R. Ring’s access to Montgomery’s Candyland studio: a warm recording of Deal’s voice with a hint of overdubs, crisp, clean acoustic guitars with so much twang and crunch and depth that you feel like you’re sitting inside them as they play. The track creates a sense of intimacy and directness with the musicians. As Montgomery puts it, “There’s nothing to hide behind.” The other tracks that they’ve made public, such as “Hundred Dollar Heat,” are simple affairs that benefit from the duo’s obvious musicianship. Fans of The Breeders or the Kelley Deal 6000 already know and dig her vocals, which feature prominently on R. Ring, so it’s not exactly a blank slate.
Taking this show on the road would seem to be a natural progression owing to the stripped-down nature of the music, but both Deal and Montgomery are curious about how it’ll work. Without a traditional album to support, what will they play? Who will show up? As Deal puts it, “Do they know what they’re getting?” If their live shows convey the care and artistry they’ve put into their ultra-limited, handmade releases so far, the right people will show up and enthusiastically listen. »
R. Ring plays Mississippi Studios May 10th.
– Eric Evans