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Strictly Country Magazine copyright Get To Know 'Em

Get To Know ‘Em...

The Band of Ruhks


   It’s a beautiful Sunday morning and the sun has just shown it’s beautiful face here in the harbor. It’s days like this that make me think of my home back in Texas.  By now, my brothers and my pop are just gettin’ back from church service.  I’m here in my little piece of heaven.

   Don’t get me wrong, or nothing, I’m not home sick.  I’ve enjoyed nearly every day in the Navy, except for PT.  I’ve met some interesting fellows aboard this here ship.  I hope that I’ll see some interesting places before my service is up.  I haven’t decided yet if I’ll make the Navy a career.  Right now I’m just a Seaman First Class, but I’d like to move up the ladder to a Petty Officer.

   The duty is light today, it being Sunday and all.  There are no drills scheduled today. Scuttlebutt says that we may be put on high alert, ‘cause of them Japs. 

  I’m off until mid-watch.  I can’t sleep so, I’m deck looking over the harbor. I love this time of the day, ‘cause it’s quiet and the water’s calm.  I’m off to the head, then I’m gonna try and get more sleep before my shift tonight.  It looks like it’s gonna be another quiet night.

   Gull darn it!  The ship’s air raid alarm just went off!

   “General Quarters! Battle Stations!”

   I knew it was to good to be true!

   Holy smokes!  Where did that plane come from?

   They’re bombing us! That plane is a Jap... Come on boys let’s get ‘em..

   My name is Samuel Adolphus Abercrombie and I was a Seaman First Class on the USS Arizona during the attacks on Pearl Harbor.  December 7, 1941, was my last day alive.  The crew and I fought with everything we had.  But, it was the explosion near the ammunition magazines in the forward section of the ship that caused her - the Arizona - to sink. With her, 1,177 souls sank to the bloody bottom.  We are now lost to Davy Jone’s locker.  It was 07:55 when the air raid went off and the last bomb hit her hull at 08:06.  Just a little over ten minutes and we were sinking, doomed forever to a life at sea.

   Time is of no consequence down here.  We are just replaying the events of that fateful morning over and over again.  We are just mere spirits stuck in time.


   December 7, 1941 - a date which will live in infamy... President Franklin D. Roosevelt.


   It’s considered a lifetime, seventy-four years.  For many of us, we grew up learning about the events that took place on that crucial day.  For some it was through history class, books and even movies.  For others, it was first hand by our mothers, fathers, and Grandparents. 

  The attack on Pearl Harbor lasted less than two hours and claimed the lives of more than 2,500 people and wounded 1,000 more.  Almost half of the casualties during the attacks were on the navel battleship USS Arizona, including Samuel Adolphus Abercrombie. 

   Mr. Abercrombie was the fifth child of John and Maud Abercrombie.  He was born in Leggett, Texas, on May 18, 1919, three years after the Arizona was commissioned.  Samuel never knew his mother, as she died giving birth to him.

   Seventy-four years after his death, Bluegrass band - Band of Ruhks commemorates Samuel in their new song “Between The Devil And The Deep.”


Between The Devil And The Deep

(Kim Fox, Ronnie Bowman)


I was a sailor on a ship named Arizona

I pledged allegiance on the day I turned 18

My name is Samuel Adolphus Abercrombie

I got my papers and I set on out to sea


My Daddy raised five kids alone in Leggett, Texas

My Mama Maudie died the day that I was born

Farming the fields couldn’t keep my mind from wandering

So I saw the world in a Navy uniform


Come on boys the Captain is calling

Toe that line and face the enemy

In God we trust to keep us all from falling

Between the devil and the deep


I was just one of fifteen hundred and eleven

Our ship was moored December 1941

The winds were calm and I thought I was in heaven

Lord knows we weren’t prepared for what was yet to come


Then the skies went black, and the seas turned red

And hell was raining down on my head

But we’re not going down without a fight

Bury me beneath the stars and stripes


Come on boys the Captain is calling

Toe that line and face the enemy

In God we trust to keep us all from falling

Between the devil and the deep

Between the devil and the deep


   This song is a haunting reminder of one of the lost souls of the USS Arizona.

   “That song really means a lot to me ‘cause that guy is a real guy!” shares Ronnie Bowman of the Band of Ruhks.  “We found out as much as we could find out on the internet, me and my co-writer Kim Fox.  She came over here that day...I had this line and a melody that went ‘I was a sailor on a ship named...’ I knew that the guy’s name was Samuel Adolphus Abercrombie.  So, she being very computer literate, more so than I am. She got on there and found out all this information. It was WOW!  He was born in Leggett, Texas. There was five of ‘em.  His mother had died.  So, we started puttin’ two and two together.  We wanted to make it a song that just didn’t sing about Pearl Harbor. 

   It’s such a tragedy.  But some times the people, you know, just one person that went through hell.  So we wanted to put a face to this for all the people that died and survived and for their families.  For all the people that do that today - it was just one of those things that you sit down and by the end of the day you listen to the song and it’s like bigger than the two people that wrote it.  It’s like I don’t know how that happened to us.  But, I feel like it’s more of a gift from God.”

   “Between The Devil And The Deep” is a song larger than life.  More so, the song is one of three taken from the Band of Ruhks’ self entitled debut album to hit our list of Top Songs of 2015, while earning a nomination for the Spirit Award’s Song of The Year Award.

   Pronounced rook as in piece taken from the game of chess, the Band of Ruhks are no strangers to the Bluegrass family.  The trio is a combination of three very talented men including Ronnie Bowman, Don Rigsby and Kenny Smith. 

   “The word ‘ruhk’ the way it’s spelled on the album, the reason we decided to spell it that way ‘because that was the original spelling of the word ‘ruhk.’” shares Ronnie.  “That word within itself - this is like ancient - it means a chariot.  What would happen was these Persian warriors would go out in their chariots and they’d dress them up like little castles.”

   The word ‘ruhk’ is considered a chess piece, a large black bird and a card game.  Which makes me ask which of the band members represent which of the meanings of the word?

   “I’m not gonna tell ya!” laughs Bowman.  “I’ll tell ya, Don is quite the jokester. We’re all brothers in the same, but we have very different personalities that tend to lend themselves to get along.”

   The trio were once part of the bluegrass band the Lonesome River Band.  Over the years, each of them left for different reasons.  It was at a reunion performance, in 2010, that the boys came together once more.  After several other performances together, the trio chose to officially form a band called  the Band of Ruhks.

   On March 17th, the boys released their self-entitled debut album on 101 Ranch Records.  The album features a fresh new take on Bluegrass within it’s thirteen cuts, five of which are co-wrote by Bowman.

   What’s so refreshing with this trio is their unique understanding of the lifeblood, heart and soul of country and bluegrass music.  The infusion of the two genres is awesome to the point of pure enjoyment. It’s an ecstasy of musical euphoria!

   The album opens with “All The Way” performed in a classic late 1980’s country music melody with Bluegrass instrumentals.

  A Bluegrass album is not a Bluegrass album without a song about bootlegging.  The Ruhks include just a song in “Bootleg John.”  Performed in your classic Bill Monroe Bluegrass style, this is one that captures the astounding tight harmonies that this trio maintains.

   The boys slow it down just a bit with a very simplistic song of love in “Run With It.”  Performed in a light hearted two-step, this song contains a beautiful uncluttered, rustic and natural feel to falling in love.  If I were to choose a theme song for myself, this one would be it.

   On the flip side, the boys pick up the pace in “Can’t Get Over You.”  Performed in a vintage country feel, this one is sure to get your feet stomping as it delivers a message about dealing with breaking up.

   From falling in love to breakup, this album has it all.  It also contains a serenade about dealing with the difficulties of a relationship in an uplifting song called “All We Need.”

   The second song that I pulled from this album to hit our list of Top Songs of 2015 is “Good Time Mountain Man.”  It has been a long time since I have heard a song that is worthy of a live performance at the Grand Ole Opry.  With a simple message that is performed in a classic Roy Acuff feel, this is that song!
  The album continues with “Lost Highway,” “Happy All The Time” and “Here Comes A Broken Heart.”  The boys also gain the help from Dr. Ralph Stanley in “Coal Mining Man.” However, it’s “Rendezvous With Danger” that hits us hard.

   Hitting our list of Top Songs of 2015, “Rendezvous With Danger” is a very compelling and influential song that only comes around once in a while.  It is performed with an up beat melody that contains a mournful story that ends with a curve ball. The theme of this song is about two people on two different paths in life; one who is trying to get home and the second who chooses to drive while intoxicated.  You may think you know the out come, nonetheless, there is a little surprise at the end of the song.

   “It’s your write your own ending song.” shares Bowman.  “The writer on that one was Harley Allen.  This is my opinion, when it get’s to that line like that right there, it’s more like God gives us free will to choose if you’re gonna drink or you’re not gonna drink.  That’s how I took the verse when I heard it.”

   Harley Allen was a genius when he penned this song.  Most songs, such as this, the listener can predict the outcome prior to the ending of the song.  Despite the story in this song, you as the listener chooses how the story ends. Thus creating a mixture of interpretations within a single song.

   It is quite uncommon for an album to come along that is completely perfect in every way.  The Band of Ruhks feed on their combined talents and emerge with an album that permeates the gallantry, fearlessness, graciousness, honor, spirit, compassion, goodwill, togetherness, honest and trustworthy experience that country music was founded on.  The only trait that is missing is theology.  And even then, one can find the band’s beliefs hidden deep within the soul of several of these songs.  It’s because of the spirit within this album that I am honored to nominate this album for the Spirit Award’s Album of The Year Award. 

   It is rare that I get so enthusiastic about an album.  In fact I can count on one hand the albums that are completely worth their monetary value.  However, I must say this truly is the one album that should bestow the title of Album of The Year.

   In the game of chess, the Ruhks are one of the strongest pieces.  Winning a ruhk for a bishop or knight is referred to as winning the exchange.  I personally believe that fans of country music and bluegrass have won the exchange as they listen to the Band of Ruhks.  Now is the time for you to play their game as you Get to know these three talented men all over again...

(This article was printed in the September / October 2015 issue of Strictly Country Magazine.)

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