Bird Mancini is the artful musical vehicle of husband and wife team Ruby Bird and Billy Carl Mancini. Longtime fixtures in the New England music scene, the talented duo never run out of things to sing about. With the Covid pandemic crippling the world in 2020, Bill & Ruby had plenty of inspiration for writing their new album, The One Delight. Ruby captures their sentiment perfectly: “For some of us, life in this world seems to have lost its luster the past couple of years. In spite of many losses, though, we still have a gift of time... to think... to create... to refresh and restore. I prefer to think we’re now in a space between two worlds. One where man plans and God laughs, and another that will be better forever...
METRONOME: How are you finding the live show scene with Covid still rearing its ugly head?
Billy Mancini: The last time we played was at The Square Root. They required people in the audience to wear masks unless you were eating or drinking. Most people were, but the performers were not... so stay away from the performers because performers kinda spit (laughs).
METRONOME: Did Covid effect your day gig Ruby?
Ruby Bird: Thank goodness we did not get sick. I was able to work from home and was totally fine with that. The pandemic really gave us a chance to work on the new CD. We had to cancel all our gigs because of Covid, so that canceled our band as well because we couldn’t get together with them and rehearse.
METRONOME: Did you have a lot of shows lined up in 2020?
Ruby: We did our last gig on March 6, 2020.
Billy: Yes. We had some good paying gigs lined up.
METRONOME: Were the songs on your new album, The One Delight written during the Covid lockdown?
Ruby: Almost all of them. The interesting thing too was that we had to play all the instruments ourselves. We didn’t have a band. Towards the end of the album - the last two cuts - we were able to get our drummer in to do some percussion on those two songs. By then, we were all vaccinated.
METRONOME: It sounds like the project went on for quite a while?
Ruby: Yes, but everything had been done up to that point by Billy or myself, which is the first time we have ever done that on any album.
METRONOME: How long did it take to write the songs or did you write as you went along?
Billy: Maybe six months for writing it, but a lot of things got written as we were doing it. We have our own studio here in the house. When you have that luxury, things can be written slowly and pieced together as you go. It’s different than walking in to a studio cold and you have to have everything ready to go. You can do it like The Beatles did on the new Get Back movie. They didn’t even have the songs together. They just pieced them together as they went. That’s what we did.
Ruby: That’s how it fell in to place. A lot of time Billy had the music written and I would be putting lyrics together. I would piece together lyrics to go with his music. That was fun. It was also fun to see it evolve in the studio because we would come up with ideas as we were recording.
METRONOME: Were in the studio for close to a year working on The One Delight?
Billy: Yes, it’s true because I’m a perfectionist. Besides, you couldn’t do anything else... go to the grocery store and that was it.
Ruby: The grocery store was the major fun thing we could do (laughs).
METRONOME: Was the muse stronger for you being under quarantine?
Bill: Yes. I couldn’t bring people in to the studio, so the studio was mine. That’s all we had to do.
Ruby: We had time and because I was working from home, I didn’t have to commute in to Boston everyday. I gained between ten and twelve hours of time. That went right in to the studio.
METRONOME: Was it a challenge to play all the instruments on The One Delight?
Billy: The first instrument I ever played was the drums, but I didn’t want to be behind the drums because you can’t write songs (sorry Phil Collins and Ringo Starr). I am not a drummer and I had to work really hard to make that part work. It’s real drums that you’re hearing and I played them, but man did I knock myself out. That was the only thing that was tough. Everything else was fine.
METRONOME: Did the drums take the longest to get right?
Billy: Yeah. I am not a click track guy. It’s not human. It’s not natural. I put the drums down first because I knew I had to work with the drums, not the other way around. But I know people do that; they go backwards.
METRONOME: So you used the drums as the foundation?
METRONOME: How long did the recording process last?
Billy: I think the basic tracks took about a half a year. Because of my perfectionism, the mixes went on and on because I didn’t have Quincy Jones with me.
Ruby: I bet we did about ten mixes of everything.
Billy: Yeah, at least ten mixes. I also mastered it. When it’s your own stuff, you tend to look at it way too closely. Then two months after it’s done, you hear it differently. It’s like somebody else did it and you start to lose all that focus on the details.
Ruby: You just hear it as a whole, especially when you hear it coming back to you on a radio program. You think, Hey, that sounds good. We did something right on that one.
METRONOME: Were you able to leave tracks alone for a while if they weren’t working the way you had hoped?
Billy: Yes, definitely. I would put a track down when I needed to back off and get away from it for awhile. Then when you come back, you go, why did I think everything sucked?
METRONOME: If you wrote the song, did that inform who would be singing lead vocals on it?
Ruby: For some of the songs, like the first track, “Space Between Two Worlds,” I penned the lyrics. Bill had the music done before I put the lyrics together. Then I sang the song.
Bill: I had one crappy line and Ruby said, That’s a crappy line. Let me write the lyrics. Ruby: (Laughing) I wrote the lyrics around Bill’s crappy line and it turned out pretty good.
METRONOME: It’s a great tune. What spawned the idea for writing it?
Ruby: I had written down the idea for a “space between two worlds.” It’s not an unusual concept. Bill said, That’s a neat idea. So I decided to write a song about that. It evolved in to what you hear on the album. It’s almost like something between life and death.
METRONOME: Did the fact that we couldn’t see friends and family due to the pandemic shape the idea behind “two worlds?”
Ruby: Yeah, it did. Absolutely it did. Our situation influenced the writing of all of those songs.
METRONOME: “Man Plans God Laughs” is an excellent song. I heard snippets of XTC throughout that tune. Did their influence seep in to the writing of that?
Billy: I know it seeped in because we’re major XTC fans. They’re masters.
Ruby: They’re absolute geniuses in my book.
Billy: I was watching this endless Netflix series and somebody said that line on the series. I said, Wow, I’m writing that one down. There’s really a bit of personal history in the lyrics. The first verse is about me leaving home for the first time. The second verse is more about Ruby. She’s from the mid-West, hence the line, “She’s getting restless like a twisted wind that rolls across the plains.” The last verse brings us together.
Ruby: It’s also biblical.
METRONOME: Who penned those lyrics?
Ruby: That was all Billy.
METRONOME: Was it a hard song to shape in the studio?
Billy: No. That song was really shaped before the pandemic. I had a version of it from before.
Ruby: You had the idea a while ago and then just finalized it.
METRONOME: What prompted the writing of “Master of Nothingness?” What a great tune. You could hear The Beatles in that song.
Billy: We love XTC and The Beatles... all that stuff. That song came from a friend that I knew a long time ago who was really happy having no ambitions and doing menial jobs. I thought, Well, that’s good. It’s great to have no ambition because you wouldn’t be tortured by any of those things. You live your life from day-to-day, and that was this person. I’ve been meaning to write that song for about twenty years and I finally did.
METRONOME: Does he know you wrote that song about him?
Billy: No, and I’ll never tell him (laughs).
METRONOME: “The Last Good Day” had a Jeff Lynne vibe to it. What was that song about?
Billy: Everyday that we live might be “the last good day.” One of the verses in there is specifically about our last gig at The Square Root before the pandemic hit. We looked out in the room and everybody was smiling and then it was over. We didn’t know it then and we still don’t know today.
METRONOME: “Homesick” was a sweet number. What inspired the writing for that?
Ruby: This one is totally my song. It was written ages ago. It’s the one song that was not written during the pandemic. Bill said, We need another song for you to sing Ruby. What have you got? I said, I don’t have anything. He said, What about this song? I said, Ohhh, really? He had to sell me on the idea of doing my own song (laughs). It’s not a bad tune, in fact we have a plaque on our wall from the American Song Festival for it.
METRONOME: Did it morph at all from when you first wrote it?
Ruby: Well of course. Bill’s production magic made it better than it was before. That song has connected with a few people. We haven’t done anything to promote it and some radio people picked that song out and ended up playing it on the air.
METRONOME: Do you still feel “homesick” now?
Ruby: I don’t really feel homesick. I love going back home, but I don’t feel homesick anymore. There was a time when I did. I think people can relate to that. It’s also very different from any other song on the album. That’s just a typical Bird Mancini thing; we’re not afraid to put an Americana song next to a progressive rock song or a ballad.
METRONOME: Do you have plans to play this album live when things open up more?
Billy: If we do it, it’s likely not going to be with a full band (as much as I would like it to be a full band). We have been working with a bass player lately though named John Ryder.
Ruby: He played with Face To Face back in the day. He’s been around the block in the Boston music scene. He’s a really sweet guy. He’s been playing upright bass with us on occasion.
METRONOME: How did you meet John?
Billy: He saw us play when we were with The Stompers. He came up to us backstage and said, “Any time you guys need a bass player, I’m it.” I knew who he was and said, Okay, I’ll call you.
METRONOME: Did he play any shows with you?
Billy: Yes, as a trio. Him on upright bass, Ruby on accordion and me on guitar. It gave me an opportunity to go back to play- ing some leads which I can’t really do when we’re just a duo. I love to play lead guitar. John gives us a whole new dimension with the upright bass.
METRONOME: Have you had a CD release show for The One Delight?
Billy: We didn’t bill it as a CD release show, but in early November [‘21] when we played at The Square Root here in Roslindale with The Providers and Glowbox, it was almost like a CD release show. We told people we had new CDs and we sold a bunch of them that night.
METRONOME: What’s the future looking like for Bird Mancini?
Ruby: We’d like to take on more of these college gigs that are further away in Pennsylvania and Connecticut and New York. It would be fun. Up to Maine, maybe Vermont and New Hampshire. We really enjoy traveling and going to different places and playing. Maybe we’ll do more of that.
-- Brian M. Owens
THE ONE DELIGHT
Ruby Bird and Billy Carl Mancini (aka Bill & Ruby Mason) never fail to impress with their endless musical gifts. Through the years they have released a collection of impressive records and their latest offering, The One Delight, is no exception. On this, their ninth full length album, the talented duo deliver 10 magnificently penned tunes filled with an infectious, upbeat jangle that’s hard to deny. Sharing lead vocal chores from track to track also affords the Mason’s a vocal depth and ability to modify songs in ways unlike your typical pop-rock groups. It’s a spectacular aural experience to witness for listeners and one that informs all of their immense musical aptitude. Songs of note include the upbeat playfulness of “Space Between Two Worlds,” the XTC infused “Man Plans God Laughs,” the Beatle-esque “Master of Nothingness,” the Jeff Lynne inspired “The Last Good Day,” and the sweet sentiment of “Homesick.” [B.M.O.]
The One Delight
Ed Morneau November 2021
I’m going to pretend that Bird Mancini, Boston’s wonderful husband and wife duo—Ruby Bird and Billy Carl Mancini—are perennial Top of the Pops stars and tunesmith, that their criminally neglected catalogue of first rate albums are international bestsellers, and that they did have a man like Brian Epstein to shepherd them to a deserved place in the pantheon of great progressive pop bands. Their new CD (like their last several CD’s) is marvel of song craft, shimmering production, superb performances, and lyrics that really took me by surprise regarding some truly poetic and heartfelt introspection. Like so many artistic treasures coming out these months of Covid and forced quarantine, Ruby sums up the inspiration perfectly:
For some of us, life in this world seems to have lost a bit of its luster the past couple of years.
In spite of many losses, though, we still have a gift of time...to think...to create...to refresh and
restore. I prefer to think we’re now in a space between two worlds...one where man plans and
God laughs, and another that will be better forever.
In essence this is a rare concept album that is not self-conscious of its uniformity of themes. Beyond exploring the many muses that influence their penchant for writing strikingly engaging melodies, the narratives explore the dualities that inform this restoration.
The opening song, “The Space between Two Worlds,” best sums up the true delight of this album: In the space between two worlds/ Where the clouds meet the sun/ ‘Tween the cradle and the tomb/ Getting close to One. Like most on The One Delight the songs here, this one feels like we were between life and death and all the strange rhythms of life that dance to the necessity of opposites, especially when Ruby rips into her harmonica solo. Aristotle would be proud.
“Man Plans-God Laughs” (a gem of pop Beatlish-Kinkish song-smithing) propels this introspective road song into the kind-of joyous existentialism of folding oneself into the whims of the universe. The chorus is appropriately celestial. One can hear God laughing.
The weight of each song is relieved by uplifting counter harmonies and a guitar pen that dips its quill into a dozen styles. Like in “Master of Nothingness,” where the dead serious contemplation of useless men is partially rescued by Ruby’s lilting harmony and Billy Carl’s Cream-like Leslie
West-psychedelic guitar heroics, knotted together in intriguing Beatle orchestrations.
Almost every song probes Bird Mancini’s varied muses. Ruby’s lyric in the jazz-inflected “Southside of Summer” is deceptive and beautiful, celebrating the summer joys of corn on the cob, blueberry pie, sultry suns, balmy nights, sunflowers tall, sneakers on the line, tomatoes on the vine… only to rupture the solar rhapsody with Cicadas sing a warning. I paused my CD player to contemplate: We grow weary of each season only because the aforementioned duality makes us look forward to the things we are often glad that pass so we can measure how much we wished they’d never pass and anticipate what comes next. Too much of a good thing—is that possible? Maybe. But more beautiful Billy Carl guitar work surrounds us, which is never too much.
This dual train of thought persists. The CD's namesake, “The One Delight,” aches, again, with opposing sentiments and apprehensions. The tune lulls us with plaintive voices and lyrics full of doubt and hope. In this age of climate catastrophe there’s a heartbreaking inevitability to what drives this song: And you say it will be alright / Another day will bring someplace to run / And you say there’ll be time for us / When everything is said and done / And you say love’s the one delight / I hope we’ll get to see the summer sun. The ideas of waiting, looking forward, rushing the seasons or waiting for the seasons, but ultimately running away from all of it, like Jim Morrison’s “Waiting for the Sun,” as if there’s something outside of love, as if love is THE
season—this is the one delight that can save us. If if if. The Season of If.
“The Last Good Day”—Another guitar orgy, another beautifully played and constructed song probing the guesswork of moving towards the future, hoping —We’ll be together always playing and singing / Until the last good day, because Living in the past / Gets you nothing but a
I’m not used to these artist being so forthcoming. A few years ago, I probed their joy and musicology in a long interview in Boston’s The Noise (http://thenoise-boston.com/2017/12/bird-mancini-2/). Mining their inspirations was like mining for unobtainium. Billy Carl all but admitted his lyrical inspirations are mostly accidental. The lyrical deliberations on The One Delight are a different matter, and a refreshing one at that—a pushing forward from a past and especially a present that were not adding up: Living in the past /Gets you nothing but a lonely heart /Living way too fast /Brings you right back to the very start /You never thought that you would get this far /You couldn’t know that this was gonna be the last good day. Again, though,
some dread and sobering clarity.
I’m not sure putting the isolation of the last eighteen months was the totality of their intention, but who among us hasn’t felt Ruby’s invocation in “Homesick”: Been so long since I’ve seen your face / Your bright wide open space / And I am gonna see you again someday?/ Right now
my money is tight/ Can’t seem to do anything right /“Maybe next year” is all I seem to say.
Everything works on this album. Even the instrumentals vie for some lyricism without words— the state of contemplation Wordsworth invoked when something of beauty reminds you of another thing of beauty. One is a gorgeous bonus—a two guitar reprise of “Master of Nothingness,” revealing a melody that makes you forget about the sons lyrical cynicism. The other, “Song for an Imaginary Life” is the penultimate statement on The One Delight. A haunting dark descent into odd, angular chords that eventually find beauty through a barely perceptible chant about the night, it was inspired by Mahavishnu’s John McLaughlin. Billy Carl reflects: Although I never recorded it, I never forgot it and often played it when I was just messing around
on the guitar. I decided it was time to let it out of my brain and into the world. A metaphor for the entire quarantine of a timeless reflection for a better forever.
The One Delight - Bird Mancini
-by Perry Persoff
From the wilds of Roslindale, a new Bird Mancini album has arrived. Released on Oct 29th, The One Delight continues their flare for spraying songs that mix elements of folk, pop, and the occasional international groove with a nearly psychedelic flavor. Many of the songs also deal with something we’re very familiar with in New England: enjoying the summer, blending into the Fall, dreaming of the summer, and exulting over the return of summer. Maybe a future album will also have something about enjoying fluffy snow (without noting shoveling, salting, and stepping carefully on near-frozen surfaces).
The project was another case of Necessity Is The Mother of Invention. Created during Pandemic Time – meaning no assembling with people in closed spaces, which means no other musicians in the studio with them – Ruby Bird and Billy Carl Mancini recorded at their home studio and played all the instruments but for the final two recordings. Why the last two? That was after people were able to get vaccinated against COVID (or as Billy says, “after the world started opening up again”). At that point, they brought their drummer Joe Jaworski in to play percussion on those two tracks. Other than that, this is the first time Billy and Ruby played and sang everything on an album. This, by the way, is their 7th.
“Boston’s Bird Mancini manage to sound both very familiar and highly original, all at the same time. From their recent album The One Delight, I’m loving the rollicking joy of “Space Between Two Worlds,” driven by Ruby Bird’s impressive vocals.” - Dennis Pilon
Bird Mancini more clever, colorful than ever on Dreams And Illusions
Bill Copeland Music News
Bird Mancini’s latest CD Dreams And Illusions not only continues the fine lyrical, harmony, and instrumental work of Ruby Bird and Billy Carl Mancini, it finds the husband and wife team taking things to a higher level. Their finely tailored work of lead vocals, harmony vocals, and perfectly placed instrumentation is stronger than ever. They have more loveliness in their mellower tunes and more swing and swagger in their more assertive numbers.
Bird Mancini have done it again. They’ve come up with another fine document of their particular flairs for voice and instrumentation. Only this time they’ve done it even better than before with this Dreams And Illusions album that is loaded with fantastic shine, color, and panache.