To those classically trained in vocalism and music theory, Christina Rubino’s voice is confusing. To put it more bluntly, on her new single, “Godspeed and Guns”, she’s flat, albeit barely. She’s flat to her own guitar, to the trumpet played by virtuoso Eli Maurer, and sometimes to her own preceding key. Based on this title track to Rubino’s upcoming album, one might even asses that she’s tone deaf. Some of her other songs are not quite as off-pitch, but there’s something about her voice’s timbre which literally makes it sound like a deaf person is singing. So why is there such a buzz around Rubino right now, that she’s releasing her second album and has the attention of many a folk and rockabilly music afficionado?
The above will be an open-ended question, not to be answered in this article. Certainly there are many bands and singers who have made their fortune on notoriously off-pitch vocals. Richard Butler, Neil Young, Anthony Kiedis and Bob Dylan are all famously tonedeaf as all getup. There does also seem to be a trend in recent folk and indie towards pitch and key mutilation, but in this case it doesn’t make much sense. Rubino and her style were born out of coffeehouse folk, as for years it was just her and her guitar (which is on-pitch, by the way), singing off-key and gaining an increasing following. It really is quite baffling, especially considering the single and video for “Godspeed and Guns” are endlessly delightful.
Through whatever strange tastes he may have, director Frankie Nasso teamed up with Rubino for the video for “Godspeed and Guns”, to create a delightful yet poignant video to go with the track. Make no mistake, Rubino is great with songwriting and her lyrics on this single are also very poignant, complex and evocative. They tell the story of a woman (or two) who has had it with years of putting up not only with terrible men but with the culture which gave birth to these types of abusers. With Nasso’s cartoonish, Thelma and Louise-meets-Natural Born Killers-meets-Serial Mom mini film, he and Rubino answer the question of what happens when a girl who is fed up with abuse and rape culture is a bit tweaked herself. With no desire to give away the twist at the end, the video is below for all to view.
Slightly flat voice aside, it’s clear from “Godspeed and Guns” as well as Rubino’s other videos and tracks that she has a charming quality and a great wit in her lyrics and songwriting. The answer may be to just get a vocal coach and tweek that tune up just a quarter of a step. Timbre-wise, Rubino has a rich and raspy alto that if pitched properly would be fabulous for folk, rockabilly or whatever else she wants to get into. There may also be no answer to this classical conundrum. Rubino and her fans may like her voice and the tiny clash it creates with the other instruments in her songs just as they are, but for the trained ears among us, it’s a bit like listening to a rich and raspy alto set of nails dragging across a chalkboard. Best of luck to Rubino either way. She seems lovely and her video with Nasso is endlessly fun. Other material by Rubino can be seen and heard on her Youtube channel, and look for the release of Godspeed and Guns in early January.