Album Reviews

Music You Don't Know You Like Yet

BOWLES~RALSTON

Rally at the Texas Hotel

2008-02-04

Ralston, the ultimate West Michigan Folk music scenester, has just released the album his career has been waiting for. Not unlike the book High Fidelity, when record store owner and lifetime music critic Rob Gordon puts himself on the line and releases a piece of music for the first time, Ralston has really put his best effort forward here. Although this album is produced with the same care, the same quality, and the same producer as his 2004 WYCE Jammie-winning effort, Rally at the Texas Hotel closes the gap between the music that WYCE files under the categories of “Local” and “National.”

A new key album in the “Kevin Bacon Game” of music has just been released. On keys we have Radoslov Lorkovic, a famous session and solo artist (5 albums) who has recorded with Odetta, Jimmy LaFave, Greg Brown, Richard Shindell, and Ellis Paul among others. In-demand producer Marvin Etzioni has also produced Peter Case, Toad the Wet Sprocket and the Counting Crows. We know Gurf Morlix (guitars etc) not only as an artist (4+ albums) and a session player (Jerry Lee Lewis, Buddy Miller, Peter Case, Jim Lauderdale, Mojo Nixon) but also as a producer (Robert Earl Keen, Lucinda Williams, Tom Russell). The colorful percussionist Jagoda from the band “Swamp Cabbage” rounds out the session team.

All of these pieces mean nothing without the pie, and Ralston has tied the album together wisely, with years of planning. From start to finish, Rally…has a song progression that works intently as a whole, while each track stands alone distinctly. He performs eight of his own songs, and two deliberate covers; one from a cherished well-known artist, and one from a little-known artist with a good song to his name, also the title track.

Perhaps the most endearing part of the release is the transparency of Ralston’s heroes shining through at every turn. You can hear Mark Heard throughout the album, not just on the track one cover. Other obvious influences include T-Bone Burnett, many of the players on the album, and the owner of the record label herself, Ms. Judy Collins (who he met at a gig in Manhattan). Bowles has an affinity for multi-talented singer/songwriter/producers with something to say. Now he’s one of them. –Pete Bruinsma, WYCE Music Director

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Compiled by the WYCE Journalism Club

The opinions expressed in these reviews are those of the individual volunteers that submitted the article and do not necessarily reflect the views of WYCE or GRCMC; nor its staff, donors, or affiliates.