Ruth Acuff
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Ruth Acuff

Columbia, MO, USA | Established. Jan 01, 2011 | INDIE

Columbia, MO, USA | INDIE
Established on Jan, 2011
Duo Folk Indie




"Earth Angel"

A fanciful imagination and a firm footing in the stuff of earth come together like dance partners in "This is the Dream," a shimmering new set from local singer, songwriter and harpist Ruth Acuff.

Each of the 11 tracks here can be placed under the umbrella of indie-folk, the spare and lovely compositions fleshed out by contributions from Acuff's husband and gifted multi-instrumentalist Jeff Mueller, prodigious drummer Phylshawn Johnson and members of area bands ranging from Don't Mind Dying and The Future Kings to Franz Kafka Rock Opera.

It is Acuff's unique presence, however, that brings a lightness of being and a sound vision to the entire effort. Her voice is celestial and lithe with a pure, well-trained upper register. Lyrically and sonically, she is rooted in traditions that reach back beyond her, as echoes of Americana can be heard as well as traces of an earthier form of chamber music. With her head in the clouds, her heart in her throat and soil between her toes, Acuff creates a subtle, often surprising listening experience.

The album's opening trilogy of songs is among its finest. "Cocoon" displays Acuff's natural musicality as the song gallops gently and each element fits together with seeming ease. After an exquisite four minutes, it swells and shifts into something more visceral and vibrating, with tribal rhythms and exotic strings framing her wordless singing. "To Do" lays arpeggiated strings over brushed beats while Acuff chases a lovely, longing jazz-kissed melody. "Right Now" is one of the set's most complete tunes; its insistent indie-pop vibe expands and contracts and expands again into a tapestry of motion and melody, Acuff's gleaming harp runs and assured vocals mingling with art-rock drums.

This trio of tunes suitably represents the lyrical bent she pursues throughout. Acuff displays an occupation with the elemental — with the majestic and mysterious aspects and effects of water, air and earth, with the life cycle of plants and people and love. She never treats any of these forces or factors as an end unto themselves, however, working to excavate the glorious things that lie beneath the surface of the simple so as to tie them together. For example, "To Do" finds Acuff itemizing her abilities as a paragon of domesticity and a pure daughter of her environment, before leaning into the line "I can cry and, darling, I can crow / Break me open, darling watch me glow."

Elsewhere, "Merry Maker" is the sort of radiant, offbeat love song at which Acuff excels. "Rock Candy Riot" adds shades of soul and alt-country into the mix on a track that's part come-on and part kiss-off, all bathed in a sense of self-reproach. "Pas Seul" further teases out that vibe — as electric guitar licks and steady percussion meet Acuff's harp glissandos, the song collapses classic rock and freak folk together. Another standout, "Winter" has a spacious, cinematic sound and owes much to the warm, gorgeous cello timbre produced by Greg Spillman.

Acuff's spritely vocal presence and instrument of choice will easily — and perhaps a bit lazily — lead to Joanna Newsom comparisons. And, while there is certainly common ground between Acuff and the indie darling, her voice also recalls the pixie delivery of Sixpence None The Richer's Leigh Nash. Conceivably, "This is the Dream" could be faulted for maintaining a medium tempo and relatively soft tones — Acuff can't be classified as someone who raises her voice. Yet, the intricacy of the textures here ultimately overcomes any such criticism and brings necessary depth to a record that takes great pleasure in knotting many realms and ribbons together.

This article was published in the Sunday, February 17, 2013 edition of the Columbia Daily Tribune with the headline "EARTH ANGEL: Acuff draws the celestial and the common into conversation for latest CD." - The Columbia Daily Tribune

"‘Moon’ landing: Acuff hits all the right notes on true tribute EP"

It can be hard to know just how to say goodbye. In crafting her latest musical statement, Ruth Acuff finds a fitting way without assuming it’s the final word.

Acuff infuses her usual — though it’s hard to call such a quality “usual” — almost pixie-like lightness of being into a set of songs that could otherwise dwell in the land of lament. “To the Moon,” written for a friend gone too soon, is not so much an EP as a thoughtful, hopeful eulogy delivered in three parts.

The local singer-songwriter, whose primary instrument is harp, creates a lush and entrancing sound that kisses folk, chamber-pop and indie-rock without committing to either. Acuff and bassist-producer husband Jeff Mueller prove they could someday have a home in the concert hall; their shared sense of harmonic color and orchestral timbre is not that far afield from through lines furthered by leading champions of new music.

The way Acuff often mingles her voice with that of her sisters, Susan Acuff and Mary Leibovich, is reminiscent of the blend the Dupree sisters of Eisley achieve; “To the Moon” also calls another sort of family to mind, sounding as if it would fit among the work of Asthmatic Kitty Records’ stable of artists (Sufjan Stevens, My Brightest Diamond, etc.).

Opener “Dark Blue Dark Green” has both a lovely, woven canopy and warm bed as Acuff’s plucked harp strings co-exist with the low quaver of cello and upright bass. Even as Acuff sings of someone who existed in the past, the song retains a spirited forward motion, the sisters’ singing skimming the currents of Mueller’s bass and finding a companion in John Shafer’s optimistic trumpet figure.

“Moon Girls” has a serene ebb and flow, as if its tides are indeed affected by the moon. Again, high and low tones are paired beautifully — Acuff’s arpeggiated playing gives the song its shape. The ending she and her sisters deliver is a radiant moment on a record that can claim a near flawless vocal approach. Their twined tones add gravity to each line they share, underscoring Acuff’s sentiments, articulating them as a community of mourners, not merely one voice.

The title track closes the set, Acuff’s most leaping vocal line framing the song’s clearest expressions of loss and samples from NASA’s “Symphonies of the Planets” field recordings reinforcing the astral themes.

As Acuff did on her 2013 full-length, “This is the Dream,” she proves unusually adept at mingling the real and the surreal. Emotionally and spiritually, “To the Moon” is a mix of memory and mystery, the natural and supernatural, who remains and what they have left to learn. Acuff doesn’t offer answers to questions about what happens when we die but does sing with a clarity and certainty about the ways our connections carry on — when she and her sisters close “Moon Girls” with the line, “Goodbye, goodbye, I’ll hold you in the next life,” there is no trace of unbelief in her voice. There is a quiet power in that moment and in all the moments that make up “To the Moon.”

“To the Moon” was produced, recorded, mixed and mastered by Jeff Mueller at Holey Acres Studio in Wooldridge and, in part, at Acuff and Mueller’s home. - The Columbia Daily Tribune

"A New Tradition"

“Her live show, an elegant mix of proficient harp playing, pop melodies and whimsy, ...something that demanded to be showcased on a bigger stage” - The Saint Joseph News Press

"Know Your Buskers"

Mixing the ethereal and earthy in a remarkable way, Acuff leads her band – which regularly features multi-talented husband Jeff Mueller and other family members – from the harp. Acuff’s songs are lush and lilting, occupying the part of the Venn diagram where circles of folk-rock and chamber music meet. - The Columbia Daily Tribune



Paisley - Feb 2011

Tree - Feb 2012

This is the Dream - Feb 2013

To the Moon - Nov 2014

Guest artist recordings:

Harp on cover of "Casuta Noastra" with Jumbling Towers 

Harp on "Lullaby" with Orchard Fire

Harp on "Single Woman", "Exactly", "Hour After Hour", "If this is it", "Silent Stranger", "Julia",  Back up vocals on "Exactly", "Hour after Hour", "Runnin", "Julia",  Bass on "Hour after Hour" & "Runnin" with Violet & the Undercurrents (Hour After Hour album)

Bass on "Slow Down" with Violet Vonder Haar

Harp on "House of white", "On your way home", "When the days were long", "Caravan", and  "2 chord" with Spectator

Harp on"Manifesto" with The Texas Room's 2015 Collaboration Album (written by Hears Kra-z, Lemké Francis (Smoll Mashop), Louis Wall and Randy Newman.



Ruth Acuff sings wisdom of the sage with elfin charm and angelic voice. Playing a 46 string pedal harp, she is accompanied by her husband Jeff Mueller on upright bass and harmony vocals. This all original duo transports listeners to the birthplace of music and true beauty.

Band Members