Reviewed by Danny Barnes, Fri., July 26, 2002
Ralph WhiteTrash Fish (Terminus) Ralph and I played together in the Bad Livers. We did about 1,500 shows together, all over the U.S., Canada, and Europe. The label I currently work with on my own music, Terminus Records, has released Ralph's first self-recorded, self-penned effort. I wanted to tell you about it.
Trash Fish won't be for everybody, and that's good news for the folks that like a little gravy on their music. To digress a bit, I think it's a good deal for everybody to play banjo music, and would encourage anyone to do so, and it makes me feel good to see banjo records come out. But in all honesty, there's a big thing missing from today's usual suspects. It's called vibe, or groove.
I think the old 78 records of picking music were more interesting than the incredible volume of recorded offerings we have deluging the market these days. The reason is you could hear the Earth in the old records. Modern efforts have removed all those elements from commercial recordings. Not to mention any names, but all these modern records sound alike; they're engineered with the same aesthetic. And they have been for over 15 years. Yikes, many of the records I'm looking at have a cast of about 20 people on every project. The same 20 people on 2,000 different CDs. And you know, the repertoire is handled in much the same way: with the exact same reverb times and compression ratios.
As we know from politics, movies, high school popularity contests, religion, and novels, the effect is mind-numbing sameness. Regionalistic differences are lost. One knows what something's going to contain just by peeking at the cardboard cutout version of it.
So that all said, here comes Ralph White's record. I would caution folks that might take exception to the above verbiage to avoid this record at all costs. For in Trash Fish, we find a few things that are danged hard to find in today's world -- art, music, expression. I think it's a fantastic record and literally drips with all the things you don't hear anymore. I've always used the term "grease." Tommy Jarrell was greasy. Bill Monroe was greasy.
Bluegrass Lite, Old Time Lite doesn't even really register as music to me. People of the Earth play the best music. The vibe harks back and forward at the same time. There's a richness of experience. There's a wide range of emotions and feelings stirred in the central nervous system. Ralph's record is a complete musical statement. Ralph has dirt under his fingernails and climbs around in trees with a chain saw for a living. He has slept on the ground for a third of his life. He has trapped raccoons and possums and is most comfortable out in the middle of nowhere, alone, playing his fiddle to the campfire and the creatures. He's like a 78 record come to life.