A founding member of the seminal Austin bluegrass/punk outfit Bad Livers, Ralph White has been an enthusiastic student of music for decades. In the late '70s, he traveled to Ireland to learn fiddle technique. He supported himself by busking on street corners and working odd jobs.
White soon made a home base in Austin, TX, where he met fellow misfit Danny Barnes on the burgeoning folk scene playing cajun music, bluegrass, and other traditional styles. Along with bassist/tubist Mark Rubin, they formed the Bad Livers in 1990. The three fused bluegrass with the adventurous attitude of punk, excitedly fusing genres together and building up a small but devoted following. White recorded four albums with the Bad Livers between 1992 and 1997: Delusions of Banjer (1992), Dust on the Bible (1994), Horses in the Mines (1994), and Hogs on the Highway (1997).
In 1996, White left the band. In 1999, he took an epic bike trip across Africa, armed with a banjo. He played with many local musicians, many of whom enjoyed playing old American folk songs that had entered their repertoire via imported records in the 1930s. White honed his skills on the mbira and kalimba, African thumb pianos. When he returned to the United States, he purchased an eight-track recorder and began recording what would become Trash Fish, his solo debut album on Terminus Records which featured a modestly executed, beautiful blend of warm string band instruments and African melodic percussion.