Jimmy Ruelas, from Linda Vista, plays a resonator guitar made by National Steel. Those kinds of guitars always sound vaguely out of tune to me, but then, it is old technology that dates back to 1927. Resonator guitars are for the most part those shiny metal acoustic instruments that are often played with a slide. They were built not to be out of tune but to sound loud in the era before amplifiers were invented. Generally, music historians, vintage romantics, or blues men use them, which pegs Ruelas as a throwback himself, but he’s not. If anything, Ruelas is the indie rocker of the current resonator guitar generation. And although I’ve never been to one of his performances, I suspect that he sounds a lot like a tent revival, especially when he leaves the stage and caroms around an audience, sing-yelling and mashing out chords on that old National Steel. It’s a high-energy gig.
- Saturday, March 29, 2014, 8 p.m.
3054 University Avenue,
Ruelas once said that musical inspiration not only comes to him from ancient recordings but from character studies of “broke and bent people singing songs about how good life can be and how fucked it is the rest of the time.”
For the most part, he performs alone and he’s not especially well known here. He has busked in Europe and last year he self-released his first CD, I Shall Not Be Moved. He’s a clever writer. If I had to corral his stuff into a reader-friendly genre, I’d say the record is an alt-country blues collection. But with Tom Waits’s sense of humor and reveal and standard Blind Lemon Jefferson turnarounds. Lou Curtiss, owner of Folk Arts Rare Records, called Ruelas a cross between Kurt Weill and Son House. But I’d say don’t fixate on the bluesy image; I think the old guitar is a tool that opened a door in his head and allowed Ruelas’s imagination to ramble.