Adapting to change: Former Rustlander Chris Rattie looks forward with Brush Valley Ramblers

For the CDTNovember 1, 2013 

Chris Rattie, now leading his new band The Brush Valley Ramblers, said the collection of songs he wrote that came to be released as “All These Things" was “completely unintended but very fortunate.”


  • if you go

    What: Chris Rattie and the Brush Valley Ramblers

    When and where: 9 p.m. Nov. 1, Thunderbird Cafe, Pittsburgh; 8 p.m. Nov. 2, Elk Creek Cafe + Aleworks, 100 W. Main St., Millheim; 5 p.m. Dec. 8, Gamble Mill, 160 Dunlop St., Bellefonte


Change is inevitable. It’s something we all experience, even musicians, who experience all the ups and downs and the triumphs and failures that come with a business that’s always evolving. One such artist has been a fixture in the Centre County music scene since the 1990s.

Rattie grew up in the coal region near Hazleton. His earliest musical influences came from his dad’s record collection, which included 1960s and ’70s rock bands such as the Beatles, Creedence Clearwater Revival and Grand Funk Railroad. Rattie started in music at 16 playing the drums, then began playing in a bar band with his dad on bass and older brother, John, on guitar. After moving to State College in his early 20s, Rattie started writing music and joined a band called the Rustlanders.

The group released an album in 2007; by 2008 they were touring nationally, supporting acts such as Ryan Bingham and the Dead Horses, and Grace Potter and the Nocturnals. The band’s second album was produced in Los Angeles by Grammy-winning producer Don Was, known for his work with Bob Dylan and the Rolling Stones. Unfortunately, the album never saw the light of day, which had a hand in the Rustlanders’ breakup. Two years later, Rattie is releasing his debut record, an undertaking that proved to be a far cry from his previous recording experience, but one that signaled a new beginning for the Pennsylvania native.

Rattie said the new album, “All These Things,” came about almost by accident in 2012.

“I was writing and recording a bunch of songs just for the fun it; I was really just teaching myself how to record on my own,” he said. “Once I had a handful of these demos together, it started to sound like an album, completely unintended but very fortunate.”

Rattie spent that winter at home among the hills of Brush Valley writing, recording and re-recording in an isolated studio with his brother, John, there to help in the studio, playing bass and keyboards on a number of tracks, and also helping with production and mixing.

“I love the process of writing, recording and performing my songs,” he said. “At this point, it’s kind of the only thing I know how to do.”

This is the first album Rattie has created on his own, with all his previous work involved in a democratic band effort. Rattie said he believes both situations have their advantages and disadvantages, but that he seems to find this independent effort even more satisfying.

“The feeling of a collective coming together and cooperating to create something unique unto itself is really something I’ve enjoyed,” he said. “But after having done that a few times, I really needed the chance to do something completely my own.”

Included on the album are songs that seem to describe the struggles that Rattie has endured during his quest to perfect his art. “So Long” speaks of putting the past behind; “The Way It’s Got to Be” describes a man who has worn out his welcome; and “Burn ’Em Down” evokes anger and frustration over the injustice in the world and a society unwilling to change.

With the Brush Valley Rumblers, Rattie primarily plays guitar, but he also plays most of the drums on the new album. He said he likes to try out whatever instruments are lying around.

“As far as style goes, I really try my best to create my own, but I think it’s mostly rooted in the kind of rock ’n’ roll I grew up on, mixed with early forms of American music like blues, bluegrass, country and folk,” he said. “I do love experimenting, though, and pushing myself into musical territory I’m not used to. At the end of the day, I can only hope that I sound like me and maybe someone else hears something unique and appealing in that sound.”

For many artists, the key to achieving fan acceptance and appreciation for their work is to do what satisfies them first. “For now, the goal is to simply write good music; that makes me happy,” Rattie said. “Hopefully if I do that, it’ll resonate with other people too. Maybe those people will come out and see me with my new band and we can all have a really fun night together.”

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