Ruby the RabbitFoot is ‘New As Dew’

The Athens-bred singer-songwriter unveils a newfound confidence on her latest LP

Folk music has always been a mirror reflecting the artist’s pastoral homeland. Woody Guthrie’s anguish coated his warbling vocals like the dirt dusted over the Midwestern farmlands he called home. Fiddlin’ John Carson used his violin’s shrill strings to channel the roosters that cackled throughout the Blue Ridge mountains at daybreak. For the young Ruby Kendrick, the mystical South Georgia marshlands of her youth glaze her wistful songs like a fresh coat of dew.

Her musical alias, Ruby the RabbitFoot, proves that even though she’s long gone from day trips to the Okefenokee Swamp, she still carries that pastoral mysticism like a lucky charm. Her bio starts with a childhood tale of Kendrick thinking her aunt was a witch, but she stresses that the story is “not as cult-y sic as it comes across. There was a lot of imagination and a lot of storytelling, but we took it kind of seriously.”

Even before she picked up a guitar, her life was surrounded with music, creativity, and a certain type of magic. Her grandfather was a singer, her aunt an erotic novelist and keyboardist. “We were a household of hippies. I was influenced to look to nature for answers. I grew up believing in magic, and that’s kind of like teaching someone about faith. Accepting that it’s not all up to you,” her bio states.

Kendrick is currently hundreds of miles away from her magical homeland, touring the country in support of her latest release, New as Dew. The album is a humble offering, relying upon hushed ruminations on dying loves, self-conscious missteps, and ghostly memories. Yet her metaphors remain planted in the Georgia clay. Instead of directly retelling her romantic misgivings, she talks of “sticking her hands in snake holes”; instead of falling out of love, she warns that “people with nice homes shouldn’t play with matches.” Her lyrics are at once intensely personal and shrouded in ambiguity. “Nature is a metaphor for everything,” she says.

Kendrick first decided to play music after she heard a Fiona Apple record and declared that she needed a keyboard. Her grandpa happily obliged her request, and she picked up an acoustic guitar soon thereafter. She was only 13 when she first put herself under the glaring spotlights of open mic nights, but her musical dedication didn’t turn into a career move until she transferred to UGA. “When I got there I was swept up in the music scene and just decided to stay because Athens was lovely,” she says. “It was constantly being flooded with new talent, and so many incredible bands called it their home base.” After living in the fabled music hub for only a few years, Kendrick released her first album, 2012’s carefree No Weight No Chain. There’s only a two-year gap between her albums, but they sound decades apart. From the first couplet off New as Dew’s intro track, “Ways,” it’s clear her debut’s singsong glee has soured.

“I know you’re probably thinking of ways to be good to me, but let me help you spare your precious energy,” she sings. Her voice drips with defeat and a fresh sincerity.

New as Dew is aptly titled, because the album introduces a brazenly candid Kendrick. “When I made No Weight No Chain, I think there was still this uncertainty about it because I wasn’t completely sold that I was supposed to be doing this,” she says. “I was still in school, so I was still reluctant.”

Soon she made the ultimate leap of faith and dropped out of college to put her full weight behind her music. Her latest release benefits immensely from that decision.

Whereas Kendrick’s debut sounded concise yet timid, New as Dew displays all her insecurities like sparkling trophies — acknowledging the right for her darkness to sing as loudly as her happiest moments. “Before, I tried to make it very simple, like I was singing to somebody else, but now I don’t think that’s important,” she says. “I think people are smarter then they give themselves credit for.”

Perhaps even more so then her lyricism, the production on her latest record showcases Kendrick’s newfound confidence. Nearly every song sounds fully realized but not overstuffed with textures. Slinking guitars as gentle as summer rain tame her biting lyrics. Subtle bass lines guide the energy so even her most sparse songs have legs to stand on.

New as Dew is a captivating snapshot of a young artist rediscovering her childhood divinity fused with all the anxieties that accompany age. Like when she was barely a teenager, strumming on her guitar to an audience of cicadas, Kendrick now sings only to herself.