Possessing an exquisite musicality rooted in modern-day folk, tuneful rock and countrified jangle pop plus a lyrical perspective brimming with real life and mature emotion, the two singer-songwriters known as Open Book have refined their distinctive sound with their sophomore CD release, The Things We Keep. Both Michele Rubin and Rick Gedney exhibit a gift for songwriting that entwines melody invention with astute observations of the heart backed by a tapestry of guitars.
The Things We Keep presents eleven original compositions filled with sharp hooks and sticky truths while adorning the whole with the kind of shimmering male-female harmonies rarely heard in today’s music.
The number of talented singer-songwriters working in the coffeehouse and nightclub scene of New York City’s northern suburbs in early 2001 was by no means a small figure. At that time, Michele Rubin and Rick Gedney were asked to perform together as an opening act for Buddy and Julie Miller at the ever-popular Towne Crier Café in upstate Pawling, New York. Rubin and Gedney had been backing each other up occasionally for several years already, but the thought of joining forces hadn’t quite occurred to them. “Arranging the songs from our repertoires and getting a set prepared was easy compared to coming up with a name for our act,” Rubin recalled with a chuckle. The moniker they chose, of course, is entirely fitting, considering their literate tilt toward semi-transparent revelations concerning love and life.
In 2002 Open Book released their debut album, Out of Time, and immediately enjoyed growing acclaim as music fans and critics recognized the duo’s talents. Noted one writer: “Michele Rubin and Rick Gedney are both excellent songwriters with strong, distinctive voices—hers is an alto of discovery, his announces a gentle understanding—and their ego-less approach to supporting each other musically is impressive in its sincerity.” In time Open Book’s audience has increased considerably and the group now regularly travels up and down the East Coast performing at much-loved “listening rooms”, such as The Towne Crier, The Living Room, and The Iron Horse Music Hall. They have shared the stage with the likes of Ellis Paul, Ian Matthews, Lucy Kaplansky, and Christine Lavin, among others.
Rubin and Gedney grew up not far from each other in the Westchester suburbs of New York City. Rubin was “the chick with the guitar” at her high school, she said, and after studying journalism at the University of Hartford ended up at Rolling Stone magazine in the advertising department. She got married, had a daughter and kept at her songwriting until she finally decided to start presenting her music at open mic nights in the area. Gedney, meanwhile, was a part of the area’s fertile garage band scene before deciding to study art at college in Indiana. He worked as a painter, got married and started a family before moving back east to work in the corporate world, while teaching guitar on the side.
In 1999 the two singer-songwriters met at a coffeehouse after a show in which Rubin heard Gedney play mandolin. She asked him to work with her on some gigs as a sideman, and soon she was reciprocating with background vocals. Their musical relationship developed and, in turn, so did their personal journey together. The songs reflect their experiences: new beginnings, transition through divorce, and finding each other through music. The stories are all right there in the lyrics.
“The crossroads Rick and I both arrived at demanded a real re-evaluation, and that’s what we’re going through, as are so many others right now,” said Rubin. “We’ve realized that it’s never too late to make your dreams come true, and that certain values and ideas need passionate defending. The last several years have been a major re-awakening for us in these regards, and though the journey hasn’t always been easy, we wouldn’t have chosen a different way in a dozen lifetimes.”
Michele Rubin - 6 and 12 string ac. guitars, vocals
Rick Gedney - 6 string ac. guitars, vocals
Billy Masters - electric guitars
Michael Visceglia - bass
Zev Katz - bass
Jeff Allen - bass
Will Lee - bass
Doug Yowell - drums
Marco Giovino - drums
Rob Clores - keyboards
Rob Mathes - grand piano
Tom Camp - pedal steel guitar
Dan Bonis - dobro
Ina May Wool - background vocals
Some early reviews of "The Things We Keep":
"Open Book is the working identity of singer/songwriters Michele Rubin and Rick Gedney. An amalgam of folk inflected styles with tunes that concern themselves with love and loss, their music crosses into the urban landscape as easily as it inhabits and embraces it’s rural roots. The duo’s harmonies are sublime and tastefully evocative; their music is amply fulfilling and the structures incorporate sounds that travel far outside the standard instrumentation of the base genre to incorporate sounds from the city and world. A top flight release."
John Hammel - www.HomegrownRadioNJ.com
"Wow...what a great CD. All the sounds I love to hear in a contemporary folk-rock song are right there in the first minute of the album...and then those voices. Not to mention great musicians. I am definitely loving this CD."
Dan Herman, RadioCrystalblue.com
"...Open Book is a folk-rock duo, yes, but...the big advantage of having two co-leaders in harmony and agreement rests on the spectrum of influence and experience each brings to the table...songcraft and soul-filling vocals of sterling quality..."
Thomas Staudter, The Gazette
"Open Book's songs build on Rick and Michele's beautiful and entwining harmonies, achieving an incantatory power."
Jim Motavalli, WPKN Radio