Ruston Kelly, Rikki Rakki & Butcher Brown: This Week’s RVAMAG Sound Check

by | Apr 17, 2023 | MUSIC

This April, Richmond’s music scene is positively buzzing with a torrent of fresh releases from its vibrant local bands. In this week’s SOUND CHECK, we’re delving into Butcher Brown’s low-key collaboration with a renowned Virginia artist, Rikki Rakki’s latest single that’s making waves among fans, and a Nashville prodigy who appears to be veering away from his customary country sound. With few scheduling conflicts, now’s the perfect time to catch some live music in town—don’t miss out And hey, if you’ve got new music, press releases, or suggestions, drop a line to Bones at bones@rvamag.com. See you at the shows!

COMING TO TOWN

RUSTON KELLY

A South Carolina native, Ruston Kelly has been chugging along in the music industry for a little over a decade now, and it looks like he’s really finding an audience. At the age of 24 Kelly wrote the song “Nashville Without You” which Tim McGraw performed on his album Two Lanes of Freedom in 2013. Meanwhile, over the course of the next few years, Kelly was performing around Nashville building up his reputation in the country scene, before releasing his first (what is often referred to as an EP, but at 10 tracks long is easily in album territory) Halloween in 2017, and then followed it up with a studio album release Dying Star in the Fall of 2018. He has been releasing music steadily ever since, and garnering a decently large following.

While Kelly’s releases leading up to this point have been absolutely steeped in the Nashville country tradition, his new album The Weakness, released on April 7th, marks a departure for him. Everything up to this point has been jangly guitars, tight high harmonies, twangy guitar solos, and harmonicas; self-actualized, but familiar. With The Weakness Kelly shows his ability to change with the times, as he himself grows. This album comes after a bout with drug addiction, a public marriage and then divorce to country-pop star Kacey Musgraves, not to mention the trials that the whole world has faced over the last few years, and his growth is evident in everything from his lyrics to his evolving sound.

Though he still maintains a country soul with many of the songs featuring country instrumentation, with the banjo driven ballad “Mending Song” – the most popular track so far, perhaps an easier to digest sonic experience for his old crowd – being a notable example. With electric pianos, affected vocals, and a spacier sound not often heard in country music, Kelly seems to be moving towards an indie rock sound that could launch him anywhere after this if he only knows how to wield his new found versatility. If you want to hear his new sound for yourself in person, then make your way down to The Broadberry on Wednesday April 19th for a show from a complicated man in the midst of massive change.

Ruston Kelly – Mending Song (Official Music Video)

LOCAL & REGIONAL

RIKKI RAKKI

Hot off their residency at The Camel, Rikki Rakki are picking up some serious speed. Having released “Cryin’ in the Uber” in February of this year, they made the unique choice to team up with Castleburg Brewery and put out, alongside their single, a themed beer. Now, not even two months later, they’ve got another single for listeners in Richmond.

Their specific jangly brand of indie rock is a well oiled sound that leads to a great live show, but their new single “Breaking Skin” signals a change in the band. This new track leans into a heavier sound than I am used to from them, with intense electric guitar jams and a more overdriven sound, Rikki Rakki seems to want to show that they can rock hard if they want to, and it is a welcome evolution. “Breaking Skin” will come out April 22nd, and Rikki Rakki will be celebrating their release at Get Tight that night with Catie Lausten and Piranha Rama. I’ve also learned that it is also lead singer Erika Blatnik’s birthday, so all signs point to it being a rip roaring time.

BUTCHER BROWN & BRUCE HORNSBY

Even those on only the peripherals of the Richmond music scene know Butcher Brown, and depending on who you are you either adore Bruce Horsnby, or maybe have never heard of him. A singer and pianist born in Williamsburg, Virginia, Hornsby has been playing music professionally since the late 70’s. His first major project Bruce Hornsby and the Range earned him a topper on the Billboard Hot 100 and a Grammy award, and since then he has gone on to create solo albums, produce for other artists, and has appeared on albums by everyone from Crosby Stills and Nash, to Bob Dylan. A Virginia legend, he has teamed up with Butcher Brown to create a new track called “Secret House” which will be released April 22nd

Created in celebration of Record Store Day, the release includes a never before heard collaboration between the two artists called “Secret House” as well as a B-side with a Butcher Brown only track called “Thirty One.” In case you haven’t heard of Record Store Day, it is an annual celebration that takes place on the third Saturday in April to honor independent record stores and what they do for the music industry. Only available in this limited edition 12” metallic copper vinyl, this release is truly unique and, if you want one, you should head down to your favorite local record store to purchase one before supplies run out. See a list of Richmond record stores below in case you’re new to physical purchases.

Plan 9 Records

Deep Groove

Vinyl Conflict

Wax Moon

Small Friend Records & Books

Crossroads Records

Top Artwork by Erika Blank

Andrew Bonieskie

Andrew Bonieskie

But you may call me Bones. I'm the Associate Editor of RVA Mag, and a writer and musician living in Richmond, Virginia. After graduating from Virginia Commonwealth University in 2020 with a Bachelor of Arts in music and a minor in creative writing I have gone on to score feature and short films, released a book of poetry, an album of original music, and perform lead vocals with the band Pebbles Palace.




more in music

Spotlight on Luxxienne: A New Wave of Photography in Richmond

Say hello to Lucienne Nghiem, known in the digital world as luxxienne, a Richmond-based photographer, whose artistry is painting the town in shades of dream-pop and disco. Lucienne has transformed her passion into a full-time endeavor, infusing her work with a...

From Band Life to Big Dreams: Wes Parker’s Solo Journey

The name Wes Parker had been appearing on my radar for many weeks, and he seemed like the new kid on the block to talk to. Parker in 2024 alone had released two new singles, the second one by the name “Annie Moore” with a video to accompany it, and then with another...

The Kids Are Alright: Cristian Espinoza’s Street Life Photos

Cristian Espinoza has been capturing the essence of youth street life for some time, and his film photography provides a raw, authentic look into the underground and art culture of the DMV area. We had the opportunity to send him a few questions. R. Anthony Harris:...

Golden Shoals, Ten Pound Snail & Kidz At Play: Sound Check

Friday Cheers may be taking a bye week, but that doesn't mean that there's any shortage of music in our fair city. This weekend Golden Shoals take over Get Tight Lounge for a wonderful outdoor evening of string band music, Ten Pound Snail are loading up the Broadberry...