"Carwreck Conversations"
by Johanna J. Bodde


Ralston   -   "Carwreck Conversations"
(Self-Released, www.ralstonbowles.com)

Ralston doesn't use his last name Bowles. He lives in Grand Rapids, Michigan, a town that I only know as a fortress of Dutch Calvinist immigrants. And this is his debut album, produced by Marvin Etzioni, who also works with Grey DeLisle. A bio wouldn't be a luxury on the otherwise well-kept website... The digipack is even better styled and received a honorable mention in the graphic design magazine Print, that picture with the dinos is fantastic! Are we going to the music now? Yes, for only 34 minutes, but the ten songs, all being approached in a different way, leave some impression! The opening track, an a-capella cover of Mark Heard, delivered with a light tap of percussion, makes an immediate impact with penetrative questions about friendship. "You Already Knew That", over distorted guitarsounds, attracts all attention with the sublime symbolic use of the language by Ralston himself. "What About Me" makes us forget Janis Ian's "At Seventeen". "James Dean", with convincing Westcoast feeling ("In Southern California where dreams and truth collide"), deals with the theme of a quick death versus pining away like a plant. The intimate song "Fragile" and the cheerful "Grace" received beautiful arrangements, with respectively keyboards and mandolin, bouzouki plus harmonica. The mix is perfectly balanced everywhere, with the acoustic instruments up front and the electric guitars in the back. To close off in the epic song "Draper", the dilemmas of life are passed by again with deep thinker Ralston, who sometimes vaguely reminds us of Chuck Prophet in his older recordings. Although the title triggers other expectations, this album will bring you the same feeling as a long evening of conversation with a close friend, during which all emotions that bubble up can be confidentially shared.
Written by Johanna J. Bodde, Dutch original of review previously published on Real Roots Cafe, The Netherlands