listening booth: ralston, “carwreck conversations”

Written by Music


Ralston – Carwreck Conversations (2004)
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Carwreck Conversations

This is a debut record?

I confess, I’d never heard of Ralston (nee Bowles) prior to him e-mailing me and asking me to review his record, but I’d like to think that’s because I don’t spend as much time listening to indie releases as I should, not because it hasn’t been a total fucking success since he put it out. ‘Cause it’s good, you guys. Really, really good.

So, look, if you’ve been reading this spot for very long, you know I’m sort of a sucker for pensive New England folk, a la John Gorka and Cliff Eberhardt, but I’m telling you, as often as not, I think these indie folk things are more than a little lame. The folk game is a tough one to play, after all; I think it might be the most restrictive genre a musician could choose.

But Ralston pulls it off with aplomb that’s something like astounding. Literally, from start to finish, this is a wonderful album. I wish I could piss on it a little, just because this review was prompted by the artist himself, and I don’t want y’all to think I’ve gone soft or something. But goddamn if it isn’t one of the best records I’ve heard all year.

You may not like it, of course. If you prefer your albums a little more heavily produced, or you’re turned off by songs that deal with the subtler shades of life, love, loss, and redemption, than a large part of Carwreck Conversations‘ charm will probably be lost on you. And hey, maybe I’m so enthusiastic about it because I wasn’t expecting much. Either way, I can’t stop listening to it, and you should give it a spin. Start with “What About Me” (download) and “Draper” (download).