Over the past few years, brother and sister duet The Roys have become one of the fastest-rising acts in bluegrass music – even landing their own television series on the RFD-TV network. With the release of their latest Rural Rhythm album, “Gypsy Runaway Train,” they look to continue their career progress.
“We’re really excited about this album,” sister Elaine tells Billboard. “It has thirteen tracks, with six being original songs and seven being cover songs that we’ve been doing for many years. People have kept coming to our merch table asking for specific songs, so we put them on this album. We had our band play on the cover tunes, which we’re really excited about. It’s a combination of songs that we’ve written that are close to our heart, and songs that mean a lot to us.”
The cover songs range from Merle Haggard’s “Ramblin’ Fever” to “Those Memories Of You,” a song that Dolly Parton, Emmylou Harris, and Linda Ronstadt took to the top ten in 1988. To keep the authentic sound of songs like those intact, brother Lee said they made a point of taking a decidedly old-school approach.
“On this album, we made a conscious decision not to put any drums on it, and pay tribute to traditional bluegrass in that sense,” he said. “On the covers, take for example ‘Ramblin’ Fever,’ it would have been easy to have gone crazy, and thrown a lot of baritone on it, but we wanted to make the album a little bit more traditional. Hopefully, it comes across that way.”
Interaction with their growing fan base led to many of the song choices, said Lee. “Some of the songs were kind of derived by the fans, like ‘Those Memories’ and ‘Ramblin’ Fever,’ for sure, were selected because people started asking for them live. The others, like ‘Blue Moon Of Kentucky,’ were ones that we were raised on. ‘He Took Your Place’ was an old Lester Flatt & Earl Scruggs Gospel song we decided to put on the record. It was all about finding songs that meant something to us, and were fun to do on stage. A song like “Born With A Hammer” is a great uptempo song that keeps the record flowing in a Bluegrass direction. I’m very proud of the CD. You can always second guess what you’ve done, but I think we really captured what we were going for with this one.”
The new songs on the album also resonate with emotion, such as “Another Minute,” which represents their grandfathers, says Lee. “That’s a song that I wrote for both of our granddads, kind of reflecting on our childhood, and being around them. The point of the song is that you can put yourself in that situation with anyone, and I started thinking about my dad. One of these days, I’ll be looking for one more minute to be with him, and I’m sure Elaine with my mom. It’s one of those things that you can really relate to.”
For Elaine, there’s the gripping words of “Half Of Me,” which she says she knows first-hand. “I went through a divorce that I thought would never happen in my lifetime. It really brought me to my knees, and that’s a song that came out of that. I don’t think I will ever sing it live because it is so personal and so raw. I hope that it makes people realize that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. I’m so much happier than I was then. If it helps one person, the song was worth all the pain,” she says.