A Review of the Ralston Bowles CD
"Carwreck Conversations"

"Carwreck Conversations"
by Ralston Bowles

Copyright 2004
Soft Butter Records

This review is written by Kevin McCarthy, 6/04
"Kevin and Maxine’s Celtic & Folk Music CD Reviews"
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Edgy and contemplative. Not too many singer-songwriters can stretch to cover these opposing points on the musical spectrum, and do it well. Count Ralston Bowles (or Ralston as he prefers) as one of them. The Michigan-based artist's latest release is laden with insightful perspectives on states of mind--those of characters exploring the depth of friendship, rocky relationships, the shy footfalls of teenage attraction, leaving feet first from this world and generational prejudice. He closes with a metaphorical look at life itself.

That closing cut, "Draper," quietly but majestically begins:

"...From the eastern seaboard to the western shore
Past the graceless chruches, across each slatted floor
There are no fruitless searches, there are no faceless poor
Everything that matters says there's so much more..."

The figurative chorus:
"...Am I just a draper in a room of wool
Looking for a pattern, feeling like a fool
Trying to take this fabric, stretch it to the seams
Trying to find what's woven
Underneath these tailored dreams..."
Ralston opens with "What Kind Of Friend," a penetrating series of queries, with just his vocals and subtle percussion, about the depth of personal connection.

The understated "What About Me" skin-crawlingly portrays the painful shyness of first allure through the vessel of a seventh grade dance:
"...Music with a slow beat had all the boys on my street
With suits and ties and two left feet so afraid to ask
While girls in washrooms grooming
Wallflowers were blooming..."
He continues with his looking glass into humanity with "Fragile," a quiet look at the faultlines of a couple struggling to be their honest best with each other. He sings:
"...Humble words are not enough, I know
But sometimes are all that come
And in this empty field of quid pro quo
The last one standing wears no crown..."
On the flip side, "You Already Knew That," enlivened by spasms of electric guitar that create an off-kilter setting perfect for such a song, is a harder, metaphorical picture of the damage done to a couple's pairing by spoken words. "Everybody But You," after a litany of details about most inhabitants in this world wanting to traverse the most comfortable, if undeserved, path of least resistance, has the protagonist questioning his partner's treating him so well--as if there's something's wrong with such behavior.

For being someone probably in his 40s, Ralston crafts an oh-so-accurate portrayal of the denigration of our youth--bias simply based on age--in "Being Young," again backed by flashes of electric guitar.

Far too unknown, Ralston deserves a much bigger audience. More releases such as this one will certainly increase his visibility.

Ralston Bowles on vocals, guitar, mandolin, harmonica and bouzouki, is backed by Marvin Etzioni on guitar and mandolin; David Raven on percussion and drums; Sheldon Gomberg on electric and upright bass; Danny McGough on keyboards; Eric Heywood on pedal steel; Brian Head on drums; and Eric Lowen, Dan NavarroShmuel Bowles on background vocals.

Track List:

All songs written by Ralston Bowles, except as noted.

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