The 581

RUTH PURVES SMITH: Vocals, Acoustic Guitar

Ruth’s childhood rambled the prairie highways between urban and country homes. Her mother, a cultured English teacher, lived in the city, and her father and stepmother operated an antique woolen mill in Rural Alberta. This paradox is apparent in Ruth’s music. While the stories may appear to be simple, traditional country, they are supported by a sound that pulls influence from the city: complicated, restless and sometimes loud. The story of Ruth’s career is no different.

In the fall of ’87, Ruth answered an ad or a “girl country singer” The ad was posted by Frank James, a one man band who played the bass guitar with his toes while playing guitar with his left hand and piano with his right. Frank had appeared on the Johnny Carson Show and That’s Incredible. Wow, the Big Time. Ruth soon discovered however that Frank was nuts. She recalls, “As long as my hair was big enough and my skirt was short enough, Frank would play the songs at their proper tempo. Otherwise it was “Blue Eyes Cryin’ in the Rain” at 90 miles an hour.

Next came Ruth’s first real band, Rodeo-A-Go-Go. In it’s various incarnations, Rodeo traveled the “B” country circuit throughout rural Alberta. The band was often too far out to be country, but too country to be anything else. This didn’t make for a very long run. By 1989, it was over.

Ruth then joined an Edmonton road band for a while, played the odd solo engagement, and in1993 joined the all girl trio Roadside Turnout . The highlights of their time together include a performance at the Calgary Folk Festival, and the birth of her first child.

The fall of ‘93 marked a break for Ruth, who then focused on raising her young family and writing her own music. Though she was occasionally involved in the writing process over the years, she was fundamentally playing other people’s music. Now, she was writing her own and loving it.

After the birth of her second child in ‘96, Ruth embarked on her solo career – opening at different clubs and events, including a couple of shows for Fred Eaglesmith.

Ruth’s recent endeavors include co-writing and performing the song Big Skies on the compilation Rivers and Rails and the recording of her debut CD “Out in the Storm”.

JIM KUKKO: Guitars, Guitars, Guitars & Background Vocals

Jim sojourned to Alberta in the early 80’s with “Earthshine”, an eight piece bluegrass band. An accomplished singer/songwriter and guitar player, Jim has collaborated with many people on numerous projects. Among his credits are works with Back Alley John, Conrad Waltz and The Wrecking Ball, Showdown and, most recently, on the upcoming Magnolia Buckskin release. Jim is an intensely committed musician.

Of this endeavour he says, “Ruth and I have been friends for a long time and we’ve always had a similar vision for a project. So, when she came to town armed with a bunch of great songs and asked me to help out on the CD, it was pretty much a no brainer.

Being a part of this recording was such a pleasure. It seemed to lift the spirits of everyone involved, and I’m thinkin’ you’re gonna feel it to – enjoy!”

KATHY COOK: Mandolin, Background Vocals

Kathy has loved being involved with music and art as long as she can remember. Her formal musical education began at age 7 when she started mandolin lessons at the Ukrainian hall. She also played violin as a child and participated in classical trios, and orchestras.
As an adult she has continued playing music and regularly plays with various duo’s, trios and bands.
Kathy Cook, is a multi instrumentalist (mandolin, guitar, bass, hand drums). Her love of harmony singing and songwriting abilities have won her praise as a mainstay on the Calgary Music scene.
Inspired by her love of Celtic, folk, roots and country music, Kathy has performed and recorded with a variety of musical artists and groups over the years. She has had the privilege of working and record with artists such as James Keelaghan, Jenny Allen, Ruth Purves-Smith, Tim Williams, Ron Cassat, Ralph Boyd Johnson, Anthony Burbidge, Rose Hip, Magnolia Buckskin, Wilf Carter among others.
Several years ago, Ruth and Kathy met up while playing at the same venue with different bands during Stampede week in Calgary. They eventually formed the Roadside Turnout Trio with Joni Brent (Clark).
Ruth and Kathy have continued to play music together off and on for many years in various forms duo, trio bands.
Things really seemed to take off nicely once they joined forces with Jimmy K.
Among Kathy’s artistic endeavors also comes her love of visual arts.
She enjoys working with oil pastels, water-colors and acrylics.


He’s known as “the Big B” to all his pals and fellow musicians.  Joining Jim in the migration from Ontario, Brian played bass in “Earthshine”. You’ll find his work on recordings from Ralph Boyd Johnson, Guy Chaput and MKinley Matter to name a few.
So many roads seem to lead back to the Start. Brian was the bassist for “Rodeo-a-Go-Go”, the first real band Ruth was in.  Now he’s still here, almost a quarter century later.
Brian says, “I have played with many different groups, including Ruth and her sister Esther culminating its the wonderful product you have before you.”



When I was 14, I started playing on my neighbour’s drum kit in the parkade of the housing complex where we both lived. He would give tips and pointers while he sat nearby and worked on his bikes. I was hooked. I emerged out of the parkade to play in my high school jazz bands, the Calgary Youth Jazz Orchestra, and went on to lead my own modern jazz quartet. I was accepted into the Mount Royal College Jazz Music Performance diploma program from which I graduated in December 2009. 

I met Ruth a fundraiser for Habitat for Humanity at which we were both playing as volunteers. I’d heard stories of people getting gigs from volunteer playing, but it’s never happened to me before. So when Ruth approached me to ask if I was interested in playing in her band, I was surprised and very pleased!
When you’ve spent most of your musical career in an academic setting, it’s a different experience to work with musicians that haven’t had “official” training, and I must admit that I was a bit skeptical at first. But the first rehearsal cleared all doubt from my mind. Here were people who knew their music well; they could groove; they could play out; they could rock. Not to mention that they had a lot to teach me about a different style of music than what I had been studying in school. 

Playing with Ruth and the 581 has been an amazing experience. I am thankful that I played that fundraiser!


Stuart Bardsley: FOH Sound Mixer, Jack of all Tech

Stu is another Earthshine Band Alumni and he also traveled to Alberta from Thunder Bay, Ont. He has been mixing sound since the early 1970’s working freelance or as a staff tech for most of the major Sound Companys in Alberta.

I first met Ruth in the 1980’s when she asked me to do a sound gig with Rodeo-a-go-go. Jim and Brian were in the band so I was more than willing to take the gig. I was very impressed with all the raw talent that Ruth possessed back then and I am so happy to see that she has grown into the incredible singer/songwriter and performer that she is today.

I ran into Jim at an acoustic show that Ruth and the 581 were playing in the winter of 2010 and he gave me a copy of Ruth’s CD “Out In The Storm”. I could tell by the look in his eyes as he handed it to me that he was really proud of his work on it. When I got home that evening I put it on and listened to every track. I was so impressed with all the songs, arrangements and the production quality that I called Ruth the next day and asked (actually I begged her) to be the band’s FOH sound mixer and Jack of all Tech for their live shows.

It is such fun to work with my old friends again. I have been so fortunate to witness their evolution as they have  become some of the finest musicians and performers in Alberta today.

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