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Recorded in Austin, Texas in March of 2020, just days before the city and the rest of the world shut down, Ralph White spent two days with producer, Jerry David DeCicca (Will Beeley, Ed Askew) and recording engineer, Don Cento, capturing a raw and wild set of performances. Ralph, having recently converted his van into a mobile living and touring quarters equipped with a wood-burning stove, left Austin, the city where he was born 70 years ago, and retreated to an Arizona commune where he began building a new house in the desert hills to escape the virus and insanity of daily living.
“Never felt so bad, so damn bad, so sad, so blue…” hollers Ralph on opener ‘Lead Man’, signalling the beginning of a wild and unsettling record, at times dark and foreboding, at others eerie and enigmatic, taking us a step further into Ralph’s very own American mystery zone.
Here’s Ralph on the record: “there was and is, and was before, an uncertainty about the collective future…somewhat looming…causing worriedness that can only be countered by…some kind of empathy, summoned (not hope) …that’s what came to my mind…”
Ralph takes us on a journey through his myriad of travels: from Dock Boggs to Syd Barrett to William Faulkner to Stella Chiweshe to Blind Uncle Gaspard…scratching banjo, rasping train whistle hollers, rolling kalimba, rousing accordion, taut shimmers of guitar, caustic fiddle and lyrics – that could have been hidden amongst the dusty inner groove of a lost Harry Smith 78 – weaving in and out of streams of consciousness, time and place.
Just a few of the titles: ‘Lead Man’ is a bleak and longing look in the mirror; ‘Motel 6’, plays out a haunting lament set upon roadside America; ‘The River Daughter’, reimagines life on the sandbar, akin to McCarthy’s Suttree; ‘Lonesome Fugitive’, acts as a cautionary ode to a life spent looking over one’s shoulder.
In addition to his solo work, White has recorded or performed with a diverse group of folk and avant-garde musicians: Thurston Moore of Sonic Youth, Jandek, Jack Rose, Eugene Chadbourne, Michelle Shocked, Sir Richard Bishop, and Michael Hurley.
“I’m going where I’ve never been,” Ralph warns the listener on the closing track; listen real close and he may just take you with him.
Housed in the beautiful artwork of Max Kuhn.